Highballs are the future

Nate Brown

26 April 2018

Low-abv, no-abv, slinky vermouths, salty sherries and garnishes as big as your head. The drink of 2018 has yet to be decided. Here Nate Brown makes the case for the humble highball. 


Mezcal? Hello, mezcal? Has anybody seen mezcal? Typical. Yet again, what should be mezcal’s year, simply isn’t. I think everyone knows that now should be mezcal’s time to shine. With the exception, perhaps, of mezcal itself. After years of been touted as the next big thing, another no show. Another disappointment.

Even the prophets are becoming tired of banging on the same drum. Mezcal has missed its chance. In the meantime, plenty of pretenders to the throne have had their hopeful hats thrown in the ring: low-abv, no-abv, slinky vermouths, salty sherries and garnishes as big as your head.

Despite all of this, gin still reigns supreme. Even I still come begrudging back to Queen Juniper time after time. Hell, I’m even in a Martini Club. But gin fatigue is firmly setting in. Fortunately, something new, or should I say old, is on the horizon. Allow me to present the case for the humble highball.

Firstly, the format: booze of choice, lengthened with soda. In my opinion, this obvious simplicity and understanding is the secret to gin’s success. Nobody needs telling what to do with a gin: add tonic, hey presto. Confirmation bias sets in. There's no magic required.

Spirits, in terms of flavour notes, are complex beasts. The same Irish whiskey, for example, can be singing rhubarb to one palate and apple the next. Much in the way art does, this can allow for a personal interpretation, but also presents an uncomfortable ignorance and makes us look like fools. The highball, however, swings the balance.

Imagine an orchestra, filled with a plethora of musicians and instruments, all playing a different note at the same time. To the untrained ear, this constitutes a chaos of noise, much in the way to the untrained palate, neat spirits can be overbearing. A splash of soda, however, acts much in the same way as time, adding length and separation between notes. In music, melody is born.

Suddenly, even the musically challenged like I can hear the violins, the piano, the horns. In my highball, I can taste the rhubarb and the apple, followed by the raisin. From here, I can extrapolate, adding bitters, liqueurs, essences, turning up the volume on individual notes. And now, I’m no longer playing with noise, I’m making music. What an exciting world that is!

With this sort of versatility and ease of control, we’ve got a serve to rival the mighty G&T. And it’s been at our fingertips all along. I’ve sang it before, and I’ll sing it again: highballs are the future. And if not, there’s always mezcal.

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