The Biggest Mistake You're Making With Your Whiskey Highball

For those who are just beginning to stir up their own cocktails at home, the whiskey highball might seem like a relatively simple entry into the practice. But the seemingly straightforward cocktail is more complex than the simple three ingredients — whiskey, sparkling water, and ice — it calls for (via Vinepair). In fact, The Daily Beast describes the elaborate Japanese "cut with water ritual" known as mizuwari in which the bartender follows a precise set of steps down to stirring the whiskey and ice thirteen and a half times and three and a half times with the sparkling water. But the biggest mistakes that occur when making a whiskey highball are more about the actual ingredients you put into it. 

For example, Chad Vogel, who owns three bars in Madison, Wisconsin, told Vinepair that "the most important thing is choosing the right whiskey." He explains that the level of carbon dioxide in the drink drives the notes of the whiskey up to the drinker so it's actually a surprisingly aromatic drink for most. That's why he suggests using a whiskey that is sweeter than most with a relatively lower proof that clocks in under 90. Brands like Basil Hayden's dark rye whiskey, The Sexton single malt Irish whiskey, or even Bushmills 10-year single malt Irish whiskey are all perfect options. Each has sweeter, oaky notes ranging from caramel to honey. Both Irish whiskeys are 40 proof while Basil Hayden's is 80 proof, placing them in the lower proof category too.

It's all about the ice in a whiskey highball

While the whiskey you choose to add to this cocktail is important, the primary ingredient that can lead to issues is the ice. Professional bartenders might be particular over the best brand of sparkling water to stir in, but it's actually ice that home bartenders should give more thought to. The reason both are so important comes down to what the drink tastes like once both the sparkling water and the ice, as it melts, have diluted the drink, per Vinepair. So make sure you use high-quality, filtered water to make your ice fresh for the cocktail.

According to Vinepair, ice not only helps keep the drink cold, but it helps the drink's carbonation last longer too. But to successfully achieve this, you need to use the right shape of ice. Apparently, you want as little space inside the glass to be taken up by ice to ensure the carbonation lasts as long as possible. Less surface area of the ice means fewer bubbles form, which allows the drink to keep its carbonation, according to Vinepair. To accomplish this, long cylindrical ice is sometimes used by professional bartenders. However, you can use cubed ice instead of typical refrigerator ice or crushed ice, which actually tallies up to a greater surface area than a single, large ice cube.