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Beyond the Highball: Cocktails to make at home

Refreshing Highball cocktails are perfect for summer sipping and easy to prepare. Get creative with these five recipes to suit both beginners and more experienced home mixologists.

The humble Highball serve has been having something of a moment in recent years. While there’s a newfound appreciation for its deceptive simplicity, it’s also being transformed into more elaborate preparations by bartenders.

What is a Highball? It’s generally considered to be any spirit with a carbonated mixer in a tall, ice-filled glass. Think Scotch & Sodas, G&Ts, Palomas.

But you’ll find versions nowadays that rethink every element, except the distinctive tall glass, of course. As a broad genre of cocktail, this is a diverse one, but with a few common characteristics.

‘The Highball is possibly the most accessible of serves,’ says Nate Brown, owner of London-based outlets Soda & Friends and Paloma Cafe. ‘It allows for a larger canvas for flavours and fragrances to shine.’

That canvas is also ideal for experimentation. ‘It’s such an easy cocktail to make variations of, since you can choose all of its components,’ adds Chris Tanner , co-owner of Dram, also in the capital.

For Bart Miedeksza, owner of Crossroads Bar in London, this is a style of drink that’s defined by its refreshing qualities. ‘There’s also a sense of celebration – what’s more rewarding than some bubbles?,’ he asks.

Then there’s the ease with which Highballs can be thrown together. You can opt to elevate your drink with unusual ingredients – as with some of the recipes below – but you’ll never need to reach for a cocktail shaker.

Beyond the Highball: cocktails to make at home

Try making one of these Highballs at home. Recipes are arranged in order of difficulty, from simple serves to mixes for more ambitious home mixologists.


Americano cocktail

Credit: Brent Hofacker / Alamy Stock Photo

A classic Italian aperitivo, this light, low-alcohol Highball eventually evolved into the Negroni, with gin replacing the soda water. The Americano showcases botanical flavours from the sweet vermouth and Campari, with some bracing bitterness too. Depending on the size of your glass, you can increase the quantity of these two ingredients, keeping their equal-parts ratio. For a twist, switch out the soda water for Prosecco to create another classic, the Negroni Sbagliato.

Ingredients: 25ml sweet vermouth, 25ml Campari, soda water

Glass: Highball

Garnish: Orange slice

Method: Add vermouth and Campari to an ice-filled Highball glass, top with soda and garnish with an orange slice.


Peaches cocktail

Recipe from Soda & Friends, London

Minimalist to its core, Peaches consists of nothing more than white rum and coconut water, but with a touch of theatre when it comes to the garnish. ‘We’re taking a few liberties with the Highball here, as this isn’t your typical fizzy serve, but the refreshing combination is worth it,’ says Brown. To finish the drink, he uses a microplane to grate frozen peach over the drink. ‘The falling “peach snow” is a beauty, and brings a gorgeous fragrance that you only get from peach as it defrosts,’ he said.

Ingredients: 50ml Diplomático Planas Rum, coconut water

Glass: Highball

Garnish: Peach snow

Method: Add rum to a Highball glass with ice and top with coconut water. Garnish by grating a frozen peach on top until you have a cap of ‘peach snow’.


Botani-Collins Cocktail

Recipe from Kindred, London

This refreshing take on the classic Collins cocktail, with its floral, herbaceous aromas, is ideal for summer. It’s in keeping with cocktail bar Kindred’s ethos too, highlighting London-based ingredients. These are also products that, as the drink’s creator, Julian de Feral, puts it, ‘have their heart in the right place’. He says: ‘I enjoyed that this beautifully packed gin celebrates West London’s most iconic gardens,’ adding that a percentage of sales from East London Liquor Company Kew Gin go towards supporting the Royal Botanic Gardens. The kumquat liqueur, meanwhile, is Fairtrade. ‘It offers an aromatic medley of citrus flavours that verge on being floral, which works very well with the gin.’

Ingredients: 50ml East London Liquor Company Kew Gin, 10ml FAIR Kumquat Liqueur (or Cointreau), 10ml sugar syrup, 20ml lemon juice, London Essence Co Soda Water, mint leaves

Glass: Highball

Garnish: Mint sprig and edible flowers

Method: Crush the mint leaves gently and add to a Highball glass, followed by the rest of the ingredients, except the soda. Add ice, stir gently and then top with soda. Garnish with a large mint sprig and two edible flowers.

Peach + Vetiver

Peach + Vetiver cocktail

Recipe from Dram, London

Another drink that proves you don’t need full-strength spirits to create a delicious cocktail, Peach + Vetiver cleverly combines Sherry and vermouth,with some flavour accents from a couple of liqueurs. ‘Fino in a Highball is amazing, particularly when it’s warm outside,’ says Dram’s Chris Tanner. ‘It brings a nuttiness that combines with the earthy, warm flavours of the vetiver.’

Ingredients: 45ml fino Sherry, 20ml Carpano Bianco Vermouth, 15ml St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur, 5ml Muyu Vetiver Gris Liqueur, 2 dashes peach bitters, soda water

Glass: Highball

Garnish: None

Method: Add all of the ingredients to a Highball glass filled with ice and top with soda.


Cairo Cocktail

Recipe from Crossroads, London

Taking inspiration from the Vodka & Soda, this drink is elevated by the addition of sencha tea. The tea is prepared in a way that reduces tannins – useful when producing cold-brew tea at home in general. First rinse the tea for 30 seconds with enough water to cover the leaves, stirring continuously. Discard the water, add enough fresh water to cover the leaves, then leave for 10 minutes without stirring. Discard the water again. Measure 100ml of water per 1.2g of tea and pour it into the washed leaves. Leave covered for 18 hours, then strain through a coffee filter. Bart Miedeksza says the resulting cold brew will keep in the fridge for a month – and there may even be some health benefits involved. ‘It’s super-rich in antioxidants,’ he says.

At Crossroads, the team uses dedicated equipment to carefully carbonate this and other cocktails – their book on the subject is now available to pre-order: Bubbles: A Guide to Cocktail Carbonation. But at home you can use soda water. Miedeksza recommends finding a brand that’s highly carbonated, such as Turkish brand Sarikiz. He also suggests using Supasawa for this drink, an aptly-named citrus alternative that’s both convenient and sustainable.

Ingredients: 35ml potato vodka, 20ml Melonade, 20ml cold brew sencha tea, 12.5ml Supasawa, 7.5ml sugar syrup, 2 dashes Pernod Absinthe, 75ml soda water

Glass: Highball

Garnish: Cucumber peel triangle

Method: Add all of the ingredients to a Highball glass and add ice. Top with soda and give it a brief stir. Garnish with a cucumber peel triangle.

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