Easy Additions To Upgrade Your Highball Cocktail

In its most basic form, a highball is made by combining a spirit with a fizzy, non-alcoholic mixer. Often thought of as a short drink served in a tall glass, Difford's Guide explains that highballs usually contain about 4½ ounces total of spirit and bubbly, but with ice, the volume nearly doubles, resulting in a refreshing tipple. Some of the most basic variations include the gin and tonic, rum and Coke, vodka and 7-Up, Scotch and soda, or whiskey and ginger ale. Tasty as they may be, they can lack a wow factor. Luckily, transforming the drinks into extraordinary sips is easy with a few additions.

A bar favorite, Fine Art Bartending explains that the highball is loved by imbibers and mixologists alike as it's delicious and has great profit margins due to its simplicity. However, that doesn't mean that the perfectly crafted highball can't also be a masterpiece. Basic as it may seem, several factors can make or break the cocktail. Unsurprisingly, starting with good ingredients is vital. Esquire recommends using quality spirits for optimal flavor and crisp (ideally, artisanal) sodas and tonics to guarantee effervescence. Additionally, pre-chilling ingredients and working with large ice cubes can also maintain carbonation, while preventing flavors from diluting.

Now that you have all the tools to prepare an out-of-this-world highball, you can have some fun and jazz up the tipples. Far from complicated, here's how adding an extra ingredient or two can upgrade a cocktail from basic to luxe.

Juices, sweeteners, and egg whites — oh my!

Despite the fact that by definition, a highball is just spirit and bubbly, the term also loosely encompasses other types of cocktails like a Rickey, Collins, or Fizz when a few other ingredients are added to the roster. Building onto a highball, The Washington Post explains that the drink can become a Rickey with the addition of citrus juice, whereas a Collins builds onto the Rickey by including sugar, and lastly, a Fizz adds onto the Rickey by introducing egg whites. We know, it's a tangled and boozy web!

Although a highball can easily turn into a thing of wonder, elevating the beverage can be even simpler should you choose to experiment with spirit and carbonated mixers. For example, Liquor suggests crafting a highball of Calvados and bubbly apple cider, or Japanese shochu and fruit-flavored soda. Infusing spirits with a fat (called fat-washing) or herbs can also take things up a notch by enhancing the profile of the base booze.

As for other easy additions, draw inspiration from cocktails that riff on classics and incorporate mixers that go beyond juices like a splash of chilled tea, pickle brine, or coconut water. VinePair even suggests playing with bitters or sweeteners — flavored syrups, honey, maple, or pomegranate molasses can add depth. Alternatively, an aesthetic garnish (citrus peels, dehydrated fruit powder, spicy rims) can also offer some flair. Just like that, what began as a barebones cocktail is now a bevvy full of panache!