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The Best Whiskey For Highball Cocktail

Will Beck
Last Updated: February 28th, 2023

The highball is a cocktail that typically contains whiskey, soda, and ice. The simplicity of the drink is what has made it so popular – it can be easily made at home or ordered at most bars.

The origins of the highball are unclear, but it is thought to have originated in Scotland in the late 1800s. The cocktail’s popularity spread throughout Britain and eventually made its way to America.

Today, the highball cocktail is enjoyed by whiskey lovers all over the world, but what is the best whiskey for  Highball?

What is a Highball Cocktail?

highball cocktail

Everyone makes the highball cocktail a little different, but the most common recipe calls for two ounces of whiskey, four ounces of soda, and ice. Some bartenders will add a splash of bitters or a twist of lemon to give the drink a bit more flavor.

The key to making a great highball is to use quality ingredients – after all, a cocktail is only good as its weakest ingredient. So make sure to use freshly squeezed lemons, good quality whiskey, and clean ice cubes.

With a bit of practice, you’ll be able to make this classic cocktail like a pro.

The Best Whiskey For Highball Cocktail

Because this cocktail has a very short ingredient list, it pays to use a higher-quality whiskey since the natural flavor will be detectable through the drink. Finding a whiskey with a flavor profile complimentary to the citrus flavor in the cocktail is essential.

Bourbon whiskey is a good choice for a highball cocktail, which has a sweet and smoky flavor that pairs well with lime. Another good choice for a highball cocktail is rye whiskey, which has a spicy flavor that complements the sweetness of the soda water.

Regardless of which whiskey you choose, be sure to use a high-quality spirit in order to make the best highball cocktail possible.

The Best Bourbon For a Highball Cocktail

Bourbon is a type of American whiskey made from at least 51% corn and distilled to no more than 160 proof. There are many different brands of bourbon, but not all bourbons are created equal.

When it comes to finding the best bourbon for a highball cocktail, you want to look for a bourbon that is smooth and easy to drink.

Budget-Friendly Bourbon – Buffalo Trace

buffalo trace bourbon
Image: Jay F Kay

Buffalo Trace’s light and mellow flavor make it perfect for mixing. In addition, its low price point (under $30) means you can experiment with different mixers without spending your entire paycheck on a bottle of bourbon.

Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is a deep amber-colored bourbon with an aroma of vanilla, caramel, mint, and molasses.

The finish is mellow but does have some complexity with notes of vanilla, oak, and candy. The palate offers sweet notes such as brown sugar and toffee, which give way to oak, dark fruits, baking spices, and anise.

Buffalo Trace Distillery has been in operation since 1787, making it one of the oldest distilleries in the United States.

This bourbon is aged for at least eight years, and is the flagship product of America’s oldest continuously operating distillery. The distillery is located in Frankfort, Kentucky, on the banks of the Kentucky River.

For a Party – Woodford Reserve

woodford reserve

Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select Straight Bourbon Whiskey is a rich, smooth bourbon with notes of dried fruit, mint, oranges, cocoa, vanilla, and tobacco spice.

This bourbon has won Gold and Double Gold Medals at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, so you know it’s a quality spirit.

The bourbon is a 43.2% ABV bourbon that has won Gold and Double Gold Medals at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. The palate is rich, chewy, rounded, and smooth with complex citrus, cinnamon, and cocoa.

To Impress Someone – Angel’s Envy

angel’s envy bourbon
Image: spencerdax

Angel’s Envy Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is a bourbon that has been aged for four to six years and finished in port casks. It earned a score of 98 points from Wine Enthusiast and five stars from F. Paul Pacult’s Spirit Journal.

This bourbon has notes of caramel, raisins, and toffee as well as cinnamon and the slightest bit of vanilla. The long finish has hints of dark chocolate and fruit.

The Best Rye to Use in a Highball Cocktail

Budget-Friendly – Jack Daniel’s Rye

jack daniel’s rye

Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Straight Rye Whiskey is a charcoal-mellowed rye whiskey crafted by Master Distiller Jeff Arnett. It features a mash bill of 70% rye, 18% corn, and 12% malted barley, as well as water from the Cave Spring Hollow.

The nose has dark fruit, banana, and hints of rye spice. More banana is on the palate with charred oak, cereal, vanilla, bread, as well as a touch of nuttiness and spice. The finish is gently spicy and oaky with a touch of honey and citrus.

This whiskey is 45% ABV and retails for around $25.

For a Party – Knob Creek Rye

knob creek rye
Image: Patrick Truby

Knob Creek Small Batch Straight Rye Whiskey is world-renowned rye that won “Best Rye Worldwide Whiskey” at the 2016 International Wine and Spirits Competition.

Knob Creek Small Batch Straight Rye Whiskey is a great choice for those who want a bold, flavorful whiskey. It has extensive notes of herbs and rye with nuances of oak on the nose, and on the palette, there is rye spice with undertones of vanilla and oak. The finish is smooth with spice throughout.

Each bottle of Knob Creek Rye only costs about $30, so it won’t break the bank to buy a few for a small gathering, and everyone will be pleased with the cocktail.

To Impress Someone – Highwest Campfire Whiskey

highwest campfire whiskey

Highwest Campfire Whiskey is a major splurge. Each bottle will put you back about $200, but it is well worth the price.

The whiskey has a floral nose, with bright and spicy notes of caramel, butterscotch, and jasmine. The taste is vanilla, honey, and toffee, with some nice fruit notes of blueberries and black cherries. The finish is long, sweet, spicy, and smoky.

The mashbill for this whiskey is 95% rye, 5% barley malt from MGP and 80% Rye, 20% malted rye from High West Distillery. This whiskey is a blend of bourbon, rye, and peated Scotch whisky, ranging in age from 4-8 years old.

The Best Scotch to Use in a Highball Cocktail

Budget-Friendly – Johnny Walker Black

johnny walker black

Johnnie Walker Black Label is the popular brand’s 12-year expression, created using whiskies aged for a minimum of 12 years from the four corners of Scotland.

This iconic whisky is one it is one of the world’s best-selling Scotch whiskies and one of whisky critic Jim Murray’s favorite blends. It also retails for about $25, making it a total steal for how good it is.

The nose is rich with fruit, and hints of sweet vanilla. The palate has depth from the maturation of oak casks and toffee notes that come from grain whiskies.

The finish is smooth and smokey, and exactly what you’d expect from a Johnnie Walker.

For a Party – Monkey Shoulder

monkey shoulder

Monkey Shoulder Blended Malt Scotch Whisky pays tribute to the maltmen who suffered from the shoulder injury that was colloquially known as Monkey Shoulder.

This whiskey is a great one to offer in your highball party cocktail because the history of the name itself is a great talking point.

Centuries ago, distilleries throughout Scotland employed maltmen, whose job it was to hand-turn malted barley using a wooden shovel known as a Schiel at the distillery’s malthouse.

These maltmen worked countless hours and, by the end of their shifts, often suffered from shoulder injuries, making them feel like a monkey was on their shoulders.

Fortunately, working conditions have improved such that the injury, which was colloquially referred to as Monkey Shoulder, has been consigned to the past.

Monkey Shoulder is an affordable option for those who enjoy Scotch whisky. At 43% ABV, it has a strong nose of butterscotch, popcorn, vanilla, and honey.

The flavor is slightly creamy with hints of woody spice, citrus, and doughy bread. The finish is long and lingering, with notes of dried fruits, oak, and a touch of cinnamon.

To Impress Someone – The Macallan Double Cask 12 Years Old

the macallan double cask 12 years old

The Macallan 12-Year-Old Double Cask Single Malt Scotch Whisky is a rich and festive whisky with a nose of fruitcake and oak spice. A palate of caramel, nuts, and vanilla follows, leading to a citrusy finish.

The Macallan 12-Year-Old Double Cask is matured in both American and European oak casks that previously aged sherry.

It has received the Double Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2017 and a Gold Medal & 95 points rating from the International Review of Spirits Tasting in 2017.

Other Great Whiskey For Highball

Budget-Friendly – Jameson Irish Whiskey

jameson irish whiskey

Jameson Original Irish Whiskey is triple distilled using techniques that date back to 1740. It is then aged for a minimum of four years in a combination of ex-sherry and ex-bourbon casks and priced for around $20.

This iconic Irish whiskey has a slightly floral nose with hints of spicy sweetness. The palate features caramel notes combined with subtle notes of vanilla and almonds. The finish is smooth with notes of sherry and fruit.

At 40% ABV, Jameson Original Irish Whiskey is perfect for enjoying neat, on the rocks, or of course, in a highball cocktail.

For a Party – Jack Daniel’s Gentleman Jack Double Mellowed Tennessee Whiskey

jack daniel's gentleman jack double mellowed whiskey

Jack Daniel’s Gentleman Jack Double Mellowed Tennessee Whiskey is a smooth and approachable spirit, perfect for those who appreciate a good whiskey.

This whiskey undergoes Jack Daniel’s charcoal mellowing process an additional time, resulting in a clean and soft nose with sweet aromas of vanilla, honey, and caramel.

You’ll find a pleasant sweetness on the palate and a touch of nuts, citrus, and black pepper.

To Impress Someone – Suntory Hibiki Harmony

suntory hibiki harmony

Suntory Hibiki Harmony is a Japanese whisky that captures the harmony between Japanese nature and people.

The whisky is made with a blend of malt whiskies from American white oak and Mizunara, a rare Japanese oak, and sherry cask malt whisky.

These ingredients come together to create a complex and nuanced flavor profile that is perfect for enjoying neat, on the rocks, or in your favorite cocktail.

Whether you are a seasoned whisky drinker or just starting to explore this classic spirit, Hibiki Japanese Harmony is an excellent option for enjoying a truly unique and memorable experience.

Best Whiskey For Highball – Conclusion

The highball is a simple drink that has become popular for its easy-to-make recipe and refreshing taste. Whether you’re at home or out on the town, be sure to grab a highball the next time you want a cocktail.

Looking for more mixing guides? Check out our list of best whiskey for a Whiskey Sour or  to mix with Ginger Ale!

About The Author

Will Beck

Will is a true digital nomad, taking his work on the road at every opportunity. His first love is coffee, with whiskey a close 2nd. He loves nothing more than enjoying a perfectly brewed coffee with spectacular scenery whilst he coordinates behind the scenes of the Drink Stack blog!

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