The beauty of a highball lies in its simplicity: Booze is combined with not-booze, which usually takes the form of a popular soft drink. Some people layer the two ingredients for a nice ombre effect, but I like to give mine a gentle little stir, and maybe garnish with a citrus wedge or strip of zest.
If you want to get fancy, you can use clear ice (Alcademics is a good resource for tutorials), and make sure that your booze is something that you can sip without wincing; if you want to get high-falutin’, you can add something bitter, like Punt e Mes or another, equally complex amaro. This ups your ingredient count to three, but it’s worth it.
Like most of my brilliant ideas, this one occurred to me while I was in an altered state. Last night, after a fair amount of wine, I asked my fellow patio dweller if she would like something else, like water or a Diet Coke. She chose Diet Coke, and requested it come with “a little whiskey,” so I added 30 mL of bottled-in-bond bourbon along with a tablespoon of Punt en Mes (my current obsession).
What resulted was very, very good. The bitterness of the Punt e Mes tempered the sweetness of the diet soda and smoothed out the aspartame, while the other botanicals enhanced the cola flavour. The addition elevated the drink from a simple “something and something” to a proper, capital-C cocktail. It felt intentional and tasted finished.
Punt e Mes is a good choice for any brown liquor, but flavour matching is half the fun here. Try Avèze or Suze with citrus soda-based highballs, or Luxardo’s Bitter Bianco with ginger ale. Ratio-wise, I recommend 45 mL of base spirit with a tablespoon of bitter amaro or vermouth and 110 mL of soda for a nice easy sipper — though you can certainly increase the amount of base spirit if you feel so inclined.