One needn’t study for years to fix a decent one at home. Here are a few quick recipes that come verified by their respective brand ambassadors.
I love the French word allongé, especially in the context of drinks. It literally means to elongate (or extend). With drinks, it means to add something, say, a diluting mixer—most often water—to an otherwise stiff drink. You won’t hear it much outside of coffee, but we all use it unknowingly even when ordering drinks with alcohol.
Every time someone orders a drink and doesn’t have it neat, it is an example of extending it. A whisky-soda could be a whisky allongé. A rum and hot water too. Cocktails are a great example of something-allongé even though in the process of diluting the principle alcohol, they also introduce other flavour facets to it. Of late, especially during this lockdown, the idea of trying a drink at home, while tinkering around with its primary flavours and finding ways to mix in other complementary ones, has been gaining much traction.
The term du jour is highballs. It is a kind of a mixed drink where a base alcohol most often (oak-aged) is served in a (roughly) 330ml-sized glass with lots of ice and (very often a fizzy) mixer. The term derives from the name of the glass, which is one of the most common glasses to be found in most households.
The word originated in the steam locomotive industry where it was used to signal that a train was good to leave the station: the yardmaster would raise a red ball high in the sky. How it came to be associated with a drink is less clear although folklore suggests it is the reason why, originally, most highballs were garnished with a cherry.
But there is nothing ‘sexy’ about having a whisky-soda at home. It is the reason why many young cocktail-slingers have tsk tsk-ed the elders at home for not knowing how to drink correctly. And yet, since some time now, highballs have caught the fancy of the bar world and our jigger-juggers can’t get enough of experimentation. The Japanese stepped in along the way (introducing rarer tinctures and touches into highballs to add a nuanced flavour tweak) and they made sure that the whole concept got nerd-ed out to a whole new stratospheric level.
But one needn’t study for years to fix a decent one at home. Here are a few quick recipes that come verified by their respective brand ambassadors. Use a highball glass and lots of ice for all.
* Jameson Irish whiskey (50ml) + ginger ale (top up) and a squeeze of lemon juice. See, easy-peasy.
* Monkey 47 gin (45ml) + sugar syrup (20ml) + soda (top up). For days when you don’t want to tonic water it .
* Absolut Vodka (45ml) + grapefruit tonic to top (Sepoy and Svami are easily available). Garnish with a grapefruit wedge or a slice of lime.
* And now, for something Japanese. Take a highball and fill it with ice. Add a measure of Toki whisky and stir to cool it down. Add some more ice after, if needed, and then slowly pour three measures of soda along the walls of the glass to avoid bruising the ice and retaining the fizz. Garnish with a citrus twist and enjoy.
* Bourbon lovers needn’t feel left out, for it makes a great highball with sweetened green tea. That said, I enjoy this mixer with Scotch whisky too and I finish it off with a short lemon squeeze, garnishing it with a sprig of mint.
* Finally, rum. Since it’s quiet the staple, one easy way is to enjoy it with one measure of pineapple juice and two measures of soda to top. Garnish with a slice of pineapple and it’s a neat little sundowner.
Hope these recipes are easy to try and experiment with. The idea is to bring out the flavours in a subtler manner and make the drink not just softer in each sip, but also more long-lasting. The word highball meant ‘good to go’ and these drinks are definitely good to go any time of day.
The writer is a sommelier