When’s the last time you opened a can of soda, got distracted by a bee or a podcast, and didn’t take a sip until a few hours later? And how did your fizz-less soda taste? Probably not great. Which is strange, seeing as how you never hear people say things like, “I sure do love the taste of carbon dioxide.” Those tiny bubbles might seem flavorless, but a 2009 study found that carbonation triggers the sour-tasting receptors in mice.
I’ll stop talking about mice now, but I do want you to know that carbonation - through its sour-tasting property - can help balance a drink’s sweetness. And there’s no better showcase for this than a summer highball. A highball is, of course, a fizzy drink that typically only has a couple of ingredients and is meant to be served in a tall, narrow glass (also called a highball). You’re going to learn how to make your own - and it should be one of the easiest things you’ve done in recent memory. The thing about summer is: it’s hot, and you often don’t feel like doing anything. And, surprisingly, we do actually condone laziness. That’s why we’re giving you four highballs you can make in under two minutes. All of these drinks are cold, tall, and fizzy, and they’re ideal for when you need something to hold in one hand while you wave to neighbors and random pedestrians from your porch.
But first, a quick refresher from a previous guide on how to make a basic drink: almost every cocktail has at least three components that work in harmony with one another. There’s the base spirit (like tequila or vodka), a sweet element (simple syrup or grenadine, for example), and also something sour (like lime juice) or bitter (like an amaro). Got it? Great.
Now let’s look at a highball called a Greyhound and see how we can use this formula to make a few improvements. A Greyhound, for the record, is just vodka and grapefruit juice, and there’s a decent chance you’ve had one at a party where the beverage options deserved a solid B-. It’s an old drink, and, since the cocktail world has a long, proud tradition of making revisions, it’s about time I showed you how to make a better version.
For starters, add a bit of seltzer. As I mentioned earlier, the carbonation will help balance the sugar in your drink - and I also believe the only times you should drink a full glass of grapefruit juice are breakfast, brunch, or when you go to a PTA meeting and see a punch bowl of something that looks like it should have alcohol in it, but doesn’t. A little bit of fizz will also lighten the cocktail and help you drink more of them as you sit by a pool or aimlessly push a lawnmower around your front lawn.
A spritz of lime will brighten the drink as well - and you could say the same thing for just about any other highball. Do not underestimate the power of a lime (or lemon). Add a bit of lime juice for some extra acidity, don’t forget the seltzer, then enjoy your improved Greyhound - a drink that tends to be thick and sweet, unless you make it tart and bubbly.
At the end of the day, you want any highball to be cold, fizzy, and well-balanced. A 1:1 juice-to-seltzer ratio is usually sufficient, and you’ll want to add 1.5-2 ounces of your spirit of choice, along with at least .5 ounce lime or lemon juice. Those are just general rules, however, and I encourage you to experiment. Or just save yourself some time, and make one of the cocktails below. They’re all perfect for when it’s 90 degrees outside and you have neither the focus nor willpower to make a labor-intensive drink.
The Gin Rickey has been around for over 100 years, and it’s an anomaly in the cocktail world. Why? Because there’s no sugar whatsoever. Actually, that’s a lie. Lime juice has some sugar, but not a lot. Consequently, this cocktail is crisp and refreshing, and it’s exactly the kind of thing you can drink all day. It’s also one of the tartest drinks out there, and we’re pretty sure you could make one in your sleep.
The Salty Dog isn’t a particularly imaginative drink - it’s usually just a cup of grapefruit juice and vodka with a salt rim. We’re giving you an updated version that’s lighter and more balanced than your typical Salty Dog, and you can make yours with either vodka or gin. As an added benefit, this very simple highball should only take about two minutes to make, so you won’t have to spend too much time standing in your kitchen which may or may not be air-conditioned.
It doesn’t get as much attention as the Margarita or Paloma, but that doesn’t mean the El Diablo is in any way inferior to those other tequila cocktails. Once you make one, you might even refuse to drink anything else. Sure, that would be a little strange - but such is the power of this juicy, spicy highball that’s perfect for drinking on your stoop. Just keep in mind that quality ginger beer is a necessity.
Queens Park Swizzle
This cocktail was invented at a Trinidadian hotel in the early 20th century, and it’s essentially a richer and more complex Mojito. You don’t have to shake it - but you do need to swizzle. This might sound like a dance that was invented in the 1950s in order to get teenagers to buy more records, but it is, in fact, a way of stirring your drink.