by Pink Lady
For this installment of Bulletproof Cocktails, let us give thanks for the highball. It’s a drink you’ve probably been ordering your entire adult life and one that every bartender in the world knows how to make; a drink with such a lively pulse, you may be wondering how it made it onto our endangered beverages list.
A highball consists of a few lumps of ice and a dram of the spirit of choice topped with fizzy water or ginger ale. If Jack & ginger is your jam, well, so are highballs. It’s hard to imagine that such an intuitive combination would need to be “invented.,” and more curious still that it’s younger than complex tipples like the Sazerac or the Crusta.
The original highball was a Scotch whisky-based drink born in the 1890s during a great influx of newfangled Scottish things, like blended Scotches and … golf. Both were enjoyed by the well-to-do, but Prohibition leveled the playing field. While Americans preferred native spirits, bourbon and rye were difficult to come by. The smugglers of “Rum Row,” the line of ships that hovered just outside American territorial waters, kept their ships stocked with Scotch. Any port in a storm, as they say. The highball became a go-to drink as Americans waited out the long dry years of Prohibition, eventually developing a taste for the strange, smoky whisky.
American cocktail culture struggled to regain its composure post-Prohibition, but many of the great bartenders had gone abroad or retired, and so companies concocted pre-fab drink mixes to replace that talent. But a highball was a drink you could turn to for simple, delicious consistency. They reigned supreme in the 1950s and 1960s—ask your parents or grandparents.
In this modern age, with great cocktail bars turning out enough fabulous concoctions to make your head spin, sometimes a simple, delicious highball may be all you want.
In this case, hit up highballs! Drink Boston and Trina’s Starlite Lounge help you party like it’s 1965 this Sunday, May 9th [3 Beacon St., Somerville. 617.576.0006. 7pm/21+/$35 adv, $40 door. trinastarlitelounge.com]. The event includes four highballs, retro delights like pigs in a blanket and DJ-spun, 1960s-era highball-appropriate tunes.
Adapted from THE SAVOY COCKTAIL BOOK by Harry Craddock
2-3 cubes of ice
2 oz of “any Spirit, Liqueur or Wine desired”
Build in—you guessed it—a highball glass. Top with 2-4 ounces of soda water or ginger ale. Add twist of lemon peel if desired.