How to make a Highball — the perfect summer golf libation

July 13, 2019

And now, a brief personal style moment: I am today for the first time wearing a black T-shirt from Gus O’Connor’s Pub in Doolin, Ireland. It has been sitting on a shelf since September, patiently awaiting the day when it would take its place in the starting lineup alongside the Kool-Aid man (must be red), Cookie Monster (must be blue) and assorted others that I wear almost daily, and that amuse me and often total strangers but never my wife, who still shakes her head every time she realizes she’s married to a six year-old. I am bald, and not thin, and a few years ago I was walking down the street with her in our little town while wearing a Charlie Brown shirt — classic yellow with the black zigzag — and as a small boy and his father passed by, the son whispered excitedly to his old man, “That was him! The real Charlie Brown!” Cue the crestfallen shrug by Mrs. Charlie Brown.

Bar shirts are not my thing, generally speaking, because they typically aren’t funny. But I like this Gus O’Connor shirt, which was an unexpected gift from a friend who accompanied our family on a trip to the green island last October. If you ever find yourself in Doolin and at Gus O’Connor’s, there’s a cozy room with a fireplace off the main bar, and its walls are covered with currency notes from various nations. The bills all have a message written on them by whomever placed them on the wall, and if you painstakingly explore them, you’ll see a U.S. $1 bill with the message“Go Navy!” and signed by Emily and Jamie. But I have news for you, Emily and Jamie: As of October 2018, another $1 bill residing directly beneath yours reads, “Go Army! Beat Navy!” And to that, my son and I say, “Mwahahaha!”

Neither I nor my son attended West Point (no time to drink with all that running and studying), but I live along the Hudson, not too far from the place. The boy and I share a passion for Army football and tailgating, and even though I’m on the grounds of the academy on half a dozen or so occasions each year, I am that very specific sort of moron who always wants to purchase something when I visit. Among the items accumulated over time are four highball glasses that I treasure, not so much because of the quite eye-catching vertical placement of the lettering, but rather because they are just perfect from a glassware and drinking perspective.

They have a sturdy, properly weighted base, but the tall sides of the glass are not excessively thick. And for a highball worthy of a professional, it’s all about the tall. Your glass should be tall enough to hold about 11 oz. of liquid, and cubed — not crushed — ice. No, I am not the ice police, but no professional (or adult) should drink a highball through a straw, and crushed ice creates a slushy dam, which, as any dam worth a damn does, impedes the flow of liquid. Also, cubed ice chills longer, and a fine highball should not be rushed. Please do not think you are drinking a highball if it’s poured into one of those truncated, pawn-sized numbers used in too many nondescript bars.

It’s summer in the Northern Hemisphere, and thus the time for tall glasses and tall bottles.

You’re no doubt wondering why I’m going on at length about highballs and glasses, and here’s the payoff pitch: It is summer in the Northern Hemisphere, and thus the time for tall glasses and tall bottles; for drinks that refresh (see recipes, left) but don’t need constant refreshing; that are on the light side booze-wise and harmonious with long daylight hours and outdoor frolic. It’s high season for the highball. Rejoice, I say unto thee, unless you live in Arizona or Florida, in which case I say unto thee, find the nearest cave and don’t come out until September.

High but not dry

Tall drinks in tall glasses are comprised of the usual suspects in terms of ingredients but go best with a less heavy-handed pour. If you’re mixing your own, you know what to do glass-wise. If you’re out and about, don’t settle for a short glass or a rocks glass — it just ain’t right for these drinks.

Classic Highball:
(1) Dewar’s is the right foundation of an exceptional highball, paired with ginger ale. Fruit is unnecessary, but do as you will. Club soda can be substituted for the ginger ale, but if you want whisky and water, just drink that.

Cuba Libre:
A light rum is the starting point — (2) Bacardi will do the trick — mixed with Coke or Diet Coke. A squeeze of lime
helps things along, but always remember the mighty Kingsley Amis’s advice in his book Everyday Drinking: “Any
drink traditionally accompanied by a bit of fruit or vegetable is worth trying with a spot of the juice thrown in as well.” If you’re unfamiliar with Kingsley Amis, read Lucky Jim.

South Side:
Take a handful of mint leaves and smack ’em around a bit. Don’t mash them — just whack ’em against your palm to get the oils flowing. Drop them in your glass, layer in 3 oz. of dry gin (you’ll never go wrong with (3) Bombay Sapphire), 1.5 oz. fresh lemon juice, and ¾ oz. simple syrup. Now add the ice, top off with club soda. Garnish
with lemon peel.

1.5 oz. of (4) Campari and the same of sweet vermouth. Add club soda and a slice of orange. Pour the Campari and vermouth first, gently add ice, top it with the soda. Beats the hell out of me why this is called an Americano, but it’s lovely in summer.

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