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This article is about the type of mixed alcoholic drink. For other uses, see Highball (disambiguation).
Sheet music cover for a 1915 song by William J. McKenna celebrating the drink

Highball is the name for a family of mixed alcoholic drinks that are composed of an alcoholic base spirit and a larger proportion of a non-alcoholic mixer.


The name may refer to the practice of serving drinks in tall glasses, or the dining cars of trains powered by steam locomotives; when the engine would get up to speed and the ball that showed boiler pressure was at its high level, known as "highballing". Or the name may have come from the railroad signal meaning "clear track ahead".[1]


Initially, the most common highball was made with Scotch whisky and carbonated water,[2] known where it originated in the UK as a "Scotch and soda".

There are many rivals for the fame of mixing the first highball, including the Adams House in Boston.[3] New York barman Patrick Duffy claimed the highball was brought to the U.S. in 1894 from England by actor E. J. Ratcliffe.[4]

Well-known examples of highballs include the gin and tonic, Seven and Seven, and Cuba Libre. A highball is typically served over ice in a large straight-sided highball glass or Collins glass.

Highballs are popular in Japan, often made with Japanese whisky as a haibōru (ハイボール?), or mixed with shōchū as a chūhai (チューハイ?). Various mixers can be specified by suffixing with -hai (〜ハイ?), as in oolong highball (ウーロンハイ ūron-hai?). These are consumed similarly to beer, often with food or at parties.

Partial list of highballs[edit]

  • Bourbon Highball
bourbon whiskey, ginger ale or soda and twist of lemon
  • Caribou Lou
2 parts 151 rum, 1 part Malibu rum, and 13 parts pineapple juice[5]
white rum, cola, and lime
dark rum and ginger beer
gin and tonic water
  • Fernet and Cola
Fernet and Coca-Cola
Lillet Blanc, Tonic Water, and cucumber slices and mint leaves
  • Greyhound
traditionally gin, now often vodka, and grapefruit juice (with a salted rim, it is instead called a salty dog)
  • Brown Bronco
Maker's Mark and Orange Crush, and lots of crushed ice (a nod to the Denver Broncos defense)
Jack Daniel's and Coca-Cola
  • Kaku Highball Japan
  • Libbi's Label
orange juice and rum
gin and grapefruit soda or grapefruit juice
Canadian whisky, ginger ale, and cola
vodka, ginger beer, and lime, served in a copper mug
Pimm's No. 1 Cup, and ginger ale, lemon-lime soft drink, or carbonated water
Pisco, cola, and ice
rum and Coca-Cola
orange juice and vodka
Seagram's 7 whisky and 7 Up, garnished with a lemon wedge
  • Texas Highball (or Southern Hospitalitea)
Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey, sweetened tea, ice, and lemon
  • Vodka Soda
vodka and club soda
  • Vodka-Cola
1/4 vodka, 1/3 lemon juice, the remainder is Coca-Cola


  1. ^ Anthony J. Bianculli. Trains and Technology. University of Delaware Press. p. 134. 
  2. ^ "The 'Scotch Highball'". New York Times. March 25, 1904. p. 8. 
  3. ^ "Topics of the Times". New York Times. October 22, 1927. p. 16. 
  4. ^ Patrick J. Duffy (October 25, 1927). "The First Scotch Highball". New York Times. 
  5. ^ "Caribou Lou Recipe".