The Herb You Should Try Adding To Your Whisky Highball

The whisky highball is a cocktail whose origins are far more complex and mysterious than its actual ingredients. Multiple differing accounts — one of which involves Thomas Dewar, a founding member behind famed Scotch distillery John Dewar and Sons — exist on who actually mixed the first highball. But what we do know is that the name itself, highball, is an old railroading term that referred to the ball in the water tank of a steam engine train. Once it reached the optimum level to provide steam power for the train, the driver would then signal on the whistle: two short bursts and one long toot. This, incidentally, is the perfect ratio of soda to spirit for a highball cocktail (via Chilled Magazine).

Though there is a tendency to dismiss the whisky highball as a lesser drink — particularly among those who prefer their scotch unadulterated by the likes of H2O, see The Spectator — there are a whole slew of recipes that make the highball more than the sum of its parts. Technically, any drink that is a mix of spirit, carbonated beverage, and ice that's served in a tall glass is a highball, per Difford's Guide. This means cocktails like gin and tonic, Dark and Stormy, and rum and coke are all versions of a highball. However, the classic is the whisky highball, and there is one particular herb that helps elevate it to another height of refreshment: the ever popular mint.

How mint elevates your whisky highball

Mint, by its very nature, is something of a super-herb that's used around the world. According to WebMD, mint water can help alleviate cold symptoms, support digestive health, and fight fatigue. However, for cocktails, we're not looking at these properties. When used as an aromatic, mint works as an excellent balancing tool that lends an extra touch of gentle and refreshing flavor to your drink, per MasterClass.

The same goes for the whisky highball. Adding a sprig of mint to the cocktail will bring an air of freshness (via The Spectator). As the whisky is somewhat diluted by the inclusion of a carbonated beverage, mint, along with a twist of lemon zest, brings subtle layers of flavor that help elevate the simple ingredients of the highball. You could also take the minted highball to the extreme by following the recipe for a mint julep highball, per Difford's Guide. Essentially, you take the normal ingredients of a mint julep — bourbon, syrup, and LOTS of mint — and add to them some carbonated beverage, and you have yourself a unique spin on a classic cocktail. So, the next time you're mixing a highball, throw in a sprig of mint to give it that "ahhh" factor.