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Cocktails

Hack Your Highball

January 03, 2023

Story: Punch Staff

photo: Lizzie Munro

Cocktails

Hack Your Highball

January 03, 2023

Story: Punch Staff

photo: Lizzie Munro

From coconut water to “citrus stock,” here are six easy upgrades to make the most of the minimal template.

The highball is a timeless template that’s as easy to make as it is to drink. The most minimal in the canon of classics, the format nevertheless allows for plenty of experimentation, whether it’s with the base spirit or liqueur, the modifiers you turn to for bitter, herbal or acidic complexity, or the effervescent topper. 

Adding tropical dimension, for example, is as easy as swapping out sparkling water for coconut water. The switch results in any number of simple two-ingredient recipes, like the classic Scotch & Coconut or the rum-based Coconut Water Highball. Calpico can also stand in place of the typical soda water; the cultured dairy drink brings a creamy texture and a lactic tang, which amplifies botanicals in spirits like gin. Alternatively, topping with a bitter soda, such as Sanbittèr or Stappi, is a fast track to a refreshing aperitivo drink.

Coconut Highball
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Turn Your Highball Tropical

The perfect combination of sweet and salty, coconut water has become a go-to summer sidekick.

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Japanese Milk Soda Does a Highball Good

The sweet and tangy Calpico is invading cocktail bars stateside.

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Just Top With Italian Soda

Bitter sodas like Crodino or Stappi offer a quick way to add complexity, effervescence and color to any cocktail.

Turning to less expected combinations is another easy way to refresh the two-ingredient format. Grape soda and green Chartreuse or Mountain Dew and Suze are just a few examples of these bartender-backed “oddball highballs.” Finally, aside from tinkering with the base spirit and sparkling topper, simply adding a few modifiers can create extra layers of flavor or texture to the traditional two-ingredient highball. Citrus stock, for example, made with a blend of citrus husks or peels, adds an easy pop of acidity to any drink—try it in something like the Kitty Highball or the Añejo Highball in place of lemon or lime juice. Or, turn to a sweetener like silky simple syrup for added body and richness. Ultimately, the highball is a forgiving format, so mix and match these techniques with your favorite base and make the drink your own.

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Dew the Suze

Fanta Orange and mezcal. Grape soda and green Chartreuse. Mountain Dew and Suze. These bartender-backed highballs play by their own rules.

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The Magic of “Citrus Stock”

Spent citrus and other fruits can be blended and cooked into “stocks” that provide another layer of flavor in drinks.

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Make Your Simple Syrup Silky

To add a textural boost to highballs, sours and more, mix lactic acid into any sweetener.

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