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What is a highball?


Ah highball, the bread and butter of mixed drinks. Not to be confused with an 8-ball (careful…), a highball is the general term used to classify an alcoholic beverage mixed with a larger portion of some non-alcoholic liquid. A highball glass is the tall glass it’s served in.

The term is usually used in regards to someone ordering a scotch and soda but it has then sense evolved into a whole category of drinks. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary (really cool site by the way), it is listed as a “type of alcoholic drink, 1898, probably from ball “drink of whiskey;” high because it is served in a tall glass.” They decided to go with it.

By today’s standards, the finished product of a highball doesn’t just have to be 1 type of alcohol or 1 type of non-alcohol. Over time, the definition of a highball has changed to include any 1-2 ounces of alcohol to about 4-5 ounces of non-alcoholic beverage. Both a Greyhound and a Long Island Tea can be categorized as highball’s, despite a Long Island including other alcohols besides vodka, like rum and triple-sec. As long as a tall drink only has about 1.5 ounces in it, it can more or less be defined as a highball.


What does this mean for me?

Well, unless you’re talking about the special cases of highballs, like our Long Island, it is usually safe to assume that they are going to be cheaper. Let’s face it, drinking at a bar can get expensive. The markup is ridiculous and you know that the bartender only gave you 1 ounce of vodka instead of the 1.5 you deserve. But when it comes to social gatherings, it can’t be avoided. So how do you make the most of it? A modest Vodka-Soda or Vodka-Cranberry will get the job done just as well as a Long Island. That’s not to say this is always true. You could easily have a Vodka-Soda with Grey Goose that might be $8-10 per round. But I’ll let you judge that.

Highball drinks can be served in lowball glasses (similar to a rocks glass)

One other thing to note about your basic highball’s: they will generally be lower calories. This isn’t a low calorie article, but I would feel guilty for not bringing this up. While your Greyhound has it’s fair share of sugar from the cranberry juice, Vodka-Soda’s, Vodka-Diet’s, and your Vodka-Tonic’s will save you a ton of empty calories and bloating later on that night. I cringe when I see someone on their 3rd or even 4th Long Island, thinking about all the sugar from the sweet and sour…. yes yes, they are delicious, I know! But, we will save the rest for another article.

In conclusion, nothing quite beats a good highball. They are simple, yet don’t mask the flavors of vodka. It is true that you kind of need to like the taste of vodka to get the hang of them. But then if you didn’t like vodka, you wouldn’t be here!

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