Whiskey Highball

Classic highball cocktail recipe

The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  • Total: 3 mins
  • Prep: 3 mins
  • Cook: 0 mins
  • Yield: 1 cocktail (1 serving)
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
142 Calories
0g Fat
0g Carbs
0g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 1 cocktail (1 serving)
Amount per serving
Calories 142
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 0mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 0g 0%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Protein 0g
Calcium 0mg 0%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

The whiskey highball is a simple, classic, and popular way to enjoy your favorite whiskey. This recipe is one that every aspiring bartender should know and it is, quite simply, whiskey and ginger ale. That makes it very easy to memorize. And you don't even need to mix it, because the carbonation of the soda provides a natural mixing for the alcohol.

This tall mixed drink is a refreshing way to enjoy any style of whiskey. Blended, bourbon, Canadian, and rye whiskies all work very well. When you pour Irish whiskey, you'll have a drink called the Irish buck.

The highball was originally mixed with plain soda water in the late 1800s, but ginger ale is the most common mixer used today. The soda's sweet and snappy flavor is a nice accent to whiskey and each ginger ale is a little different. Between the two ingredients, you can create a nearly endless array of tastes, which is one of the reasons it's so popular.

This mixed drink, however, should not be confused with the class of drinks called "highballs" which include timeless combos such as rum and Coke and Jack and Coke. Those include most tall drinks that combine a shot of a base spirit and one or two non-alcoholic mixers. To take it a step further, the word "highball" is also used when referring to the tall glasses that these drinks are served in.

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Ingredients

  • 2 ounces whiskey
  • 4 to 6 ounces ginger ale (or club soda; enough to fill)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for classic highball cocktail
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  2. Fill a highball glass with ice.

    Fill highball glass with ice
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  3. Pour the whiskey into the glass.

    Pour whiskey into glass
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  4. Top with ginger ale.

    Top whiskey with ginger ale
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Why Is It Called a Highball?

Cocktail origin stories are sometimes difficult to sort out, and the highball falls into that category. The drink emerged in the late 1890s and several sources indicate that bartenders in England called whiskey drinks "balls" and tall or "high" glasses were used for the drink. Another theory says the name comes from a 19th-century railroad signal. When the ball was high, or raised, on the signal post, the train could pass through without stopping. In "The Joy of Mixology," Gary Regan says that the drink mimics the train signal that it was time to go: two short whistles followed by one long one, as the drink consists of two ounces of whiskey and a long pour of ginger ale or soda.

Recipe Variations

If you're looking for a refreshing way to drink your favorite whiskey, there are many common drinks that follow this formula of whiskey and soda in a highball glass.

  • With a bottle of ginger ale, you can make a Mamie Taylor with scotch and add a little lime juice.
  • For a drink that's just as sparkling but not quite as sweet as the highball, try the Presbyterian, which cuts the ginger ale with club soda.
  • When you want to get a little more complex, go for the Irish Gold: Irish whiskey, peach schnapps, and orange juice. 
  • A classic favorite is the one and only John Collins, a mix of bourbon, lemon juice, simple syrup, and club soda.
  • It's very similar to the Whiskey Fizz, which opts for sugar over syrup and is generally made with blended whiskey.
  • One of the easiest highballs is the branded Seven and Seven: Seagram's 7 Crown Whiskey and 7-Up.
  • When you want to take your whiskey to the drier side, mix up the Leprechaun. With Irish whiskey and tonic water, it's an excellent dinner companion.
  • The Japanese love a highball at dinnertime and in social settings. They make it fine attention to detail, mixing Japanese whiskey with sparkling water.

How Strong Is the Highball?

The highball can be a very light drink and that's why it is ideal for happy hour. It all depends on how much soda and whiskey you pour.

For example, if you pour an 80-proof whiskey and follow the recipe as given, your drink would have an alcohol content of about 9 percent ABV (18 proof). Then again, if you double up on the whiskey, opt for a high-proof whiskey, or pour less ginger ale, the drink can almost double to 18 percent ABV.