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7 must-try variations on the classic whisky highball

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Now making their mark in bars across the globe, Whiskey highballs have a long history dating back to the 1950s in Japan. And we can’t say we’re surprised. There are so many whisky highball variations to choose from, making them a category of cocktails that are extremely versatile with each recipe being delightfully unique.

So, whether you’re looking for summer BBQ cocktails that will be perfect for a garden get-together or whisky drinks to impress your scotch-loving friends, our selection of the best whisky highball recipes is sure to inspire you.

What is a whisky highball?

A classic whisky highball is one of the oldest scotch-based cocktails there is made of just three winning elements: scotch whisky, soda, and ice. The neutral nature of the soda allows the flavours of the whisky to shine while the small bubbles add to the mouthfeel. Served in a narrow, tall glass with lots of ice, it’s known the world over for being simple yet incredibly refreshing.

In more recent years, the term ‘whisky highball’ has been used to describe drinks that revolve around whisky being paired with (usually) carbonated mixers, served over ice and in traditional highball whisky glasses. Time-honoured flavour pairings have evolved to include fizz, giving birth to the delicious recipes we’ve come to love.  We’re sure there are even more exciting new whisky highball recipe combinations that have yet to be discovered.
What unique combos can you think of?

How to make a whisky highball?

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When it comes to making a whisky highball, there are no hard and fast rules; it’s about enjoying whisky in your own way. However, if you do want some tips, you might find the following advice useful.

Select the right glass

To be a true whisky highball, it needs to be served in the correct glassware. A highball glass is tall, yet narrow in proportion, and has straight or slightly flared sides. In terms of volume, a highball is usually between 235ml and 280ml. Any more than 295ml, and it’s likely to be a Collins glass instead. If you can, freeze the glass before you begin constructing your drink; it’ll keep everything chilled, and the frost will add to the aesthetic.

Add the ice in first

It’s a good idea to add ice to your glass first, before any liquid. This will help keep the whisky cool while you add the other ingredients. And whilst you can choose any type of ice, larger cubes will stop your whisky highball from becoming too diluted.

Choose your whisky

With the glass perfectly prepped, it’s now time to pour in your base spirit. The whisky you choose may depend on whether you’re following a recipe or if you have a firm favourite. For a great all-rounder though, you can’t go wrong with Ballantine’s finest blended scotch whisky.

Get fizzy with it

Now comes your mixer. Again, you can choose what you like here. You might be using a classic like soda water or lemonade, or be going for something fruitier as we’ve done in our Fanta cocktail.

If you want to become a better bartender (even if crafting cocktails at home), try holding the glass at an angle whilst you slowly add your mixer in. It’ll add a touch of elegance to it all and reduce the likelihood of over pouring.

For the ratio, somewhere between 2 parts mixer to 1 part whisky and 3 parts mixer and 1 part whisky is likely to be ideal. If you prefer a stronger beverage, of course, you can reduce the mixer and likewise, you can add a little more if you prefer the flavours of the alcohol to be more subtle.

Sip, sip hooray

All that’s left to do now is enjoy the whisky highball that you’ve put time and love into creating. As with whisky tasting, take your time to enjoy every sip. Focus on not just the flavours but also the aromas that emanate from the glass and the mouthfeel that comes from the combination of whisky, ice and bubbles.

Whisky highball variations to try at home

So, now you know what a whisky highball is and how to make one, all that’s left to do now is gather everything you need and get experimenting! If you are stuck for ideas, we’ve got some whisky highball variations that are sure-fire crowd-pleasers.

Bergamot Highball

You can think of bergamot as the orange’s more rambunctious cousin. It’s a bittersweet citrus fruit whose flavour works wonderfully in this bergamot cocktail when mixed with the berry and heather notes of Ballantine’s Glentauchers 15 year scotch.

ballantines glentauchers bergamot highball

Bergamot Highball

We wanted to showcase a popular, yet relatively unknown citrus: the bergamot. The flavour is instantly recognisable, and the bittersweet, tart notes harmonise with the red berry and citrus notes of the Glentauchers.

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Ballantine's Miltonduff Cherry Blossom Highball

Cherry Blossom Highball

To stay true to the whisky, it has been lengthened with unflavoured soda to create a classic highball serve.

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Cherry Blossom Highball

This Sakura highball pays homage to the subtle yet sweet and complex fragrance of the beautiful cherry blossom. Combining Ballantine’s Miltonduff 15 year old single malt and Crème de Poire, flavours of juicy fruits including pear, peach and orange dance with creamy soft toffee, and hints of toasted almond and cinnamon. The drink is finished with bubbly soda water and cherry blossoms embedded in ice cubes.

Honey & Cinnamon Highball

Honey, cinnamon and whisky are a winning trio, wonderfully balancing sweetness with spice and warmth with refreshment. These flavours are world-renowned when combined in a Hot Toddy but we’ve transformed them into a zesty summer serve by adding chilled ginger beer and lashings of ice.

Honey & Cinnamon Highball - Whisky Recipe -

Whisky, Honey & Cinnamon Highball

Fresh, sweet and super zesty. It’s got all the deliciously satisfying flavours of a Hot Toddy, but this time, we’ve poured it on the rocks.

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ballantines glenburgie honey ginger highball

Honey & Ginger Highball

Honey, orange and rosemary is one of the most classic flavour combinations, and mixing the three with Glenburgie Single Malt felt natural, as it creates a lovely, long highball, with subtle herbaceousness, gentle spice and natural sweetness.

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Honey Ginger Highball

This is another great option if you love a sweet and spicy combination. Our whisky ginger highball has a base of Ballantine’s Glenburgie 15 year old single malt scotch, which is full and creamy with a velvety smooth texture, and vodka. These two spirits are merged with honey and ginger bitters before being topped with water and soda for a subtle fizz.

Orange Highball

Orange juice is a breakfast staple but our orange highball takes it and turns it into a cocktail that you can enjoy any time, from brunch through to just before bedtime. Hints of oak, vanilla and floral flavours come from Ballantine’s 12 year old scotch, combining perfectly with fresh OJ and a touch of citrusy sweet lemon soda.

orange whisky highball

Orange Highball

Adult OJ? Yes please! Try this sharp but sweet highball with fresh orange juice and a touch of lemon soda.

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Glenburgie 18 Year Old bottle with coconut and pandan leaf drink

Pandan & Coconut

Coconut and pandan are used to both complement the Glenburgie 18 YO’s abundant sweetness and balance the sharpness.

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Pandan & Coconut

Whisky with coconut water is seriously underrated. That’s why we want to rave about our pandan highball cocktail. With just one sip, the combination of scotch whisky, rum and coconut water will transport you to a white sandy beach as a warm breeze rustles through the palm trees. A certified summer serve.

Ballantine’s & Cola

Sometimes the best things in life are the simplest. A long lie-in. A hot shower. Streaks of summer sun coming through the window…and we think that a classic whisky coke belongs on the list too. Using just a trio of ingredients, Ballantine’s Finest blended scotch whisky, cola, and lime, this much-loved highball is the perfect option for any time.

ballantines finest whisky coke

Whisky & Coke

Two’s company and three’s a crowd pleaser. Mix up this three ingredient classic to kick off a night with friends.

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Best whisky for a highball

The best whisky for a highball depends on the flavours you like and the other ingredients that you’ll be pairing it with. Ballantine’s Finest is a great place to start if you’re new to drinking whisky or you want a blend that can act as a subtle, yet tasty base.

If you don’t want to compromise on the whisky flavour but want something a little lighter, then Ballantine’s light whisky could be the ideal choice. It is half the strength of Ballantine’s Finest but is still bursting with sweet, citrusy notes and hints of hazelnut.

For something completely different, Ballantine’s Wild cherry whisky is wonderfully fruity, with a combination of sweet and tart cherries all sitting on a distinctive scotch whisky base. 

Find more ways to enjoy Ballantine’s your way with our whisky cocktail recipes including the best light whisky cocktails and first date drinks.

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