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How to make a whisky highball – the simplest whisky cocktail you can master at home

Like gin and tonic, the whisky highball is one cocktail you can enjoy perpetually in any situation.

Although exceedingly popular among Malaysian drinkers, whisky remains somewhat underexplored and underappreciated in cocktails. Perhaps it is the robust flavour that makes whisky a little tricky to execute flawlessly in cocktails – pairing and layering is a form of art that requires constant practice.  

Classics such as the old fashioned and whisky sour though veering on the cliched side remain staples in any bar. But they don’t necessarily catch on with the average bar hopper. The old fashioned, primarily based on bourbon or rye whiskey, can be off-putting to some owing to its strength and spirit forwardness. Also, imagine stepping into the trendiest cocktail bar with your sharply dressed hipster companions, of all the fancy, Instagram-worthy cocktails you can ask for, you settle for an old fashioned. That’s not very cool, is it?  

On the other hand, while the whisky sour is lovely thanks to the frothy egg white, it can be quite cumbersome to concoct at home. So what would be an easy-to-drink, uber-refreshing whisky cocktail that you can make at home effortlessly? That’s right, a whisky highball. 

Since making it is so simple, requiring no bartending skill, the key to perfect a whisky highball lies in the ingredients. The manageable recipe counts only 3 items – whisky (duh), carbonated water and lemon. And ladies and gentlemen, that’s all you need (as well as a highball glass and ice).  

Here’s how to make a whisky highball: 

  • Pour 50ml of whisky into a highball glass 
  • Top the glass with ice cubes 
  • Fill the glass with 150ml of carbonated water (the rule of thumb is ¼ whisky and ¾ carbonated water) 
  • Give the mixture a gentle stir, garnish with a wedge of lemon, and you’re set 

Not unlike any other cocktails, the whisky highball can be adjusted to taste. If you like it dry, opt for plain carbonated water; and if you crave for something sweeter, swap that for ginger ale instead. More importantly is to choose the right whisky to complement the type of mixers you use.  

new bars

Since you are going to “water it down”, it will be wiser of you to elect for a value-for-money whisky that is both inexpensive yet still flavourful to ensure your cocktail doesn’t taste flat. Based on my experience, a blended whisky works better in comparison to a single malt or grain whisky in a whisky highball. Perchance it is the extra nuances and broader spectrum of flavours produced by the intermingling of malt and grain spirits. Is it a surprise that the whisky highball, which is popularised in Japan, is synonymous with Japanese blended whiskies? 

The bottom line is that you would want a whisky that is sweet on the nose to ensure the cocktail is aromatically seductive, with a spicy body that balances out the sweetness of the whisky, rises above the sparkling water and lends the cocktail some depth. It doesn’t matter much the whisky is scotch or of Japan. 

My preference for the straight-up version with carbonated water is the Chivas Regal 12 Year Old. It somehow makes the whisky highball brighter compared to other whiskies. You’re free to experiment, after all personal preferences – and results – can vary wildly.

Chivas Regal 12 highball set

As of writing, Chivas Regal is promoting The Chivas Regal 12 Year Old gift pack clothed in Japanese street style as nod to the origins of the whisky highball. It is furnished with one of two limited-edition Chivas HiBall mugs and a can of soda to pair with the Chivas Regal 12 Year Old. 

Buy Chivas Regal 12 Year Old here

As a bonus, here’s the recipe of a peach highball using the Chivas Regal Mizunara:

  • Pour 40ml of whisky and 10ml of Crème de Pêche into a highball glass 
  • Top the glass with ice cubes 
  • Fill the glass with 150ml of carbonated water
  • Give the mixture a gentle stir, garnish with a wedge of peach, and you’re set 

Buy Chivas Regal Mizunara here

Buy Monin crème de pêche here

On top of that, any purchase of Chivas Regal products is entitled to a lucky draw. The prize on offer is one of three BearBrick 1000% figurines worth a total of RM2,000. They are Maneki Neko Gold Plated 1000% Light Emission, Jean-Michel Basquiat #6 1000% and Mickey Mouse B&W 1000%. 

The closing date for the lucky draw is 30 November 2021, with winners to be announced on 10 December 2021. Participants will also be able to test their mixing skills with the ‘Perfect Mix’ game, available at the interactive booths at selected Jaya Grocer (One Utama, The Gardens and Quayside Mall in the Klang Valley) and Mercato (Pavilion Kuala Lumpur) outlets.

 

Justin Ng
Digital Content Director, Kuala Lumpur
Often think of myself as a journalist and so I delve deeper into a range of topics. Talk to me about current affairs, watches, travel, drinks, new experiences and more importantly, the business, economics and dynamics behind it.