Ginger Ale Vs Club Soda: Which Makes The Better Whiskey Highball?

In the cocktail world, "highball" can mean a couple of different things. Firstly, it can describe the type of glass a drink is served in; a highball glass is a taller vessel that typically holds eight to ten ounces of liquid. A highball cocktail, meanwhile, describes a mixed drink that contains liquor plus a higher volume of a non-alcoholic mixer. A whiskey highball is basically whiskey and a mixer like club soda or ginger ale. These highballs act as wonderful aperitifs, as they awaken the appetite, and are also ideal sippers for happy hour, because they're refreshing and not terribly strong (unless you order a double, of course). The question is, of course, is it better made with club soda or ginger ale?

"Better" is a tricky word in cocktail culture. Ultimately, people like what they like, and one person's preference isn't necessarily another's. If you base the answer on trends, most people today seem to enjoy their whiskey mixed with ginger ale, and for good reason. The flavor and spice of the soda plays deliciously with most types of whiskey, without overpowering the alcohol. But if you want to taste more of the whiskey flavor without the sugar, club soda is the way to go — not to mention it's the classic choice.

A brief history of the whiskey highball

The whiskey highball emerged between the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was originally made with Scotch whisky and soda water, giving it the name "scotch and soda." The cocktail soon evolved to include whiskeys not made in Scotland, and the whiskey highball became a popular libation.

In his book "Straight Up or On the Rocks," restaurant critic and food writer William Grimes suggests that the concept of mixing whiskey and ginger ale, often nicknamed "whiskey ginger," may have been popularized during Prohibition. As explained by Letters & Liquor, sales of ginger ale skyrocketed from 1920 to 1928, and this could have been due to an influx of illegal homemade or rotgut whiskey, which thirsty folks tried to improve upon by adding the sweet, fizzy soda.

Whiskey highballs have certainly withstood the test of time, not only because of their clean, simple, unadulterated flavor, but also because they're so easy to prepare. There is no shaking or mixing involved at all, and if you want to include a garnish, a juicy wedge of lime or lemon is all you really need.

Perfect whiskey highballs with ginger or club soda

To make the perfect whiskey highball with ginger ale, simply pour a least an ounce and up an ounce and a half of whiskey over ice into a highball glass. Top with about five ounces of good ginger ale and a squeeze of lime. You can decrease or increase the amount of soda depending on your personal tastes. The ginger ale you use can make all the difference in the drink as well. Brands can be super mild in the ginger department, or downright spicy with the sharp flavor of the root.

Those who prefer whiskey and club soda typically like to taste more of the whiskey, so in this case, pour two ounces of whiskey over ice and top with four ounces of club soda and enjoy a refreshing take on the strong spirit.

If you want a happy medium between the two, try a Presbyterian, which is made with whiskey plus equal parts club soda and ginger ale, which cuts the sugar a bit. If you ever come across a drink called an Irish Buck, you can expect something that is basically a whiskey highball — it's made with Irish whiskey, ginger ale, and a touch of lime juice. When you replace the whiskey with dark rum and the ginger ale with ginger beer, boom, you've got a Dark and Stormy.