There exists a notion fairly widespread, a myth rather, that dark spirits are either for winters or cool evenings at best. To even contemplate drinking an oak-kissed spirit when the summer sun is still shining bright in the sky can attract the worst kind of stares and hushed tittles.
Alas, a spirit bottled at 42 percent alcohol by volume delivers pretty much the same ‘high’ as the next. The only palpable difference is in their inherent flavors, while I outright admit that oak brings a certain warmth to the sip, which is not the trademark of more ‘cooling’ spirits like gins and vodkas but it in no means that a good dram can’t be done up with a mixer and some flavors to become the ideal summer pick-me-up.
The term you will find being thrown around is Highballs. It comes from the glass in which these types of drinks are served-a medium-height fairly slender receptacle with a capacity that can hold about 220ml of a drink and if filled all the way to the top with no ice, it can even extend to 350ml (but I wouldn’t ever advise doing that). The term highball itself has many origins and you can choose to stick with one that you may find online but more pertinently, can recall easily at parties.
So basically, anything served in that glass could be classified as a highball but today, the term signifies an alcoholic drink mixed with a higher proportion of a non-alcoholic mixer (most commonly a fizzy one) which is often flavored and the whole thing is then rounded off with a suitable garnish.
The whiskey-soda combo, looked down upon in many circles, is the OG of highballs. And it’s a fine way to enjoy the drink, especially on a hot summer day. Spot of cricket or baseball, a highball trolley in the pavilions with light hors-d’oeuvres nearby, not much to complain. In fact, this is also where the G&T found its roots, acceptance, and fame.
Alas, the darker spirit versions came to be frowned upon with time. And more than the drinkers, it had possibly something to do with the makers, who felt that to drown their precious time-honed spirits in a crude mixer was blasphemous to the point of insulting. Maybe it was the marketing around the brands, or the generally accepted social ritual involving their consumption, highballs fell out of fashion and flavor and didn’t resurface till the 21st century.
Today, as overall consumption of alcohol is declining even as curiosities remain high, the concept of mixed drinks is no longer looked down upon. In fact, it’s a great way to extend an evening, stretching your drinks while staying stoically in control. And whiskey has bounced back as the preferred base. A few recipes are included here but I’d encourage you to try other mixes too: Cognac + Tonic, Rum + Pineapple Juice + Soda, whiskey + Iced Green Tea + Soda or any of these three with Ginger-Ale and Lime. And in case it’s white spirits you specifically yearn for then Vodka (or Gin) can be paired with just about any fruit juice out there. Don’t forget that splash of soda to top for that quintessential fizzy freshness.
Summertimes are about lazy lounging, long days pair very well with long drinks and highballs can be a great way to make the most of the season.