The highball is a deceptively simple drink. You might think, isn’t it just a spirit and some kind of carbonated mixer? Well, we’ll have you know it goes more than that, and can totally differ from one bar or restaurant to the next. Here’s the low down.

What is a highball?

A highball is most traditionally whisky and soda served over ice in a straight-sided highball glass or tall collins glass. Many bars in America claimed to have mixed the first highball, though most agree that the sparkling drink originated in England during the mid-19th century — a time when carbonated waters were thought to have medicinal properties.

In the early 2000s, the highball continued to evolve as whisky companies started marketing the drink to a new generation of drinkers, walking the line between casual tipple and refined cocktail.

It’s even earned some kind of cult status in Japan, where a highball is meant to be as much an experience as a complex six-ingredient cocktail would be — from quality of ice to glassware and type of whisky used. Jim Beam, the world’s No. 1 Bourbon, even has bespoke draft machines that dispense super-carbonated soda to make the best, fizziest highballs in town!

Of course, highballs these days are no longer restricted to whisky and soda. Some have more than two ingredients, shapeshifting depending on which bar you’re at. Want to use oolong tea? Grapefruit juice? No problem, at its core, a highball is the perfect refreshing beverage that slakes thirst and can perform in just about any setting.

Where to Highball throughout the night in Singapore

The great things about the new wave of highballs in Singapore? They’re refreshing, low in alcohol volume (so you can keep ’em coming), wallet friendly, and full of flavour. We’ve tried our fair share, so here’s where to go for some of the tastiest.

After work happy hour: Hej Kitchen & Bar

Enjoy a highball while soaking in the alfresco vibes at Hej Kitchen & Bar and its cosy deck filled with joyful colours. At a very affordable $9 nett, their Jim Beam Highball in both the Yuzu and Pink Grapefruit flavours are great for freshening up after that long work day. If you’re feeling peckish, $20 nett will score you two highballs and a soul satisfying bowl of luncheon meat sticks.

Pre Dinner Tipples: Rumpoles Bar

Alternatively, Hotel Jen Tanglin’s classy Rumpoles Bar has a long happy hour, so you can enjoy 1-for-1 highballs at just $11.50 nett between 5pm to 9pm everyday. Besides the classic, other variations include the Jim Beam Highball flavoured with Yuzu Lemon and Kyoho Grape, which see fruit-infused ice cubes to prevent your drink from diluting. Did we mention there’s complimentary popcorn too?

Dinner: Kushikatsu Tanaka

Casual Japanese restaurants are synonymous with highballs, so this is as good a place as any to enjoy a drink. In fact, Kushikatsu Tanaka have one of Jim Beam’s bespoke draft machines so the carbonation is on point here. Their unusual Singapore Sling flavoured Jim Beam Highball ($7+) with strong cherry notes is an excellent companion to their delicious fried skewers, as are the Cassis and Apple Cider flavours going at $6.80+ each.

Post dinner drinks: Highball Bar

No prizes for guessing what this place specialises in. Two-year-old Highball in the Outram Park neighbourhood is Singapore’s first bar dedicated to highballs and offers the widest selection of flavours in town…and yes, they also have one of the bespoke Jim Beam highball draft machine? How does a Jim Beam Highball with Maple syrup and lemon juice sound? Or a brand new Jim Beam Highball perfumed with Lavender Highball that’s fragrantly floral? All flavours go for a mere $10 nett, and we’re looking forward to trying other flavours like Calpis and Spiced Cherry Citrus!

How to make a classic highball

A quality highball typically sees a ratio of 1:4 in a chilled glass that reduces the rate of dilution. Be sure to stir steadily and slowly so gas won’t escape from your mixer. Here’s a recipe from Jim Beam that we like:

  • Take a chilled mug and squeeze in 10ml of fresh lemon juice from a wedge of lemon
  •  Add in ice cubes
  • Pour in 1 part of Jim Beam whisky and add 4 parts of soda water, then stir once to ensure the carbonation doesn’t escape
  • Garnish as you wish

Enjoy your highball!

All images courtesy of Gary Lim.