In the hierarchy of cocktails, the humble highball does not rank highly. Such minimalist constructions don’t even warrant menu space at many modern bars, having lost real estate to their more complex mixological counterparts. But though they may not be glamorous, these spirited concoctions are the first that bartenders learn how to make and usually the first to pass the lips of novice drinkers.

The highball is such a simple drink that it hardly needs explanation, consisting of about two parts base spirit paired with roughly three parts sparkling water, soda, or juice. The contents of many highballs are given away by their name. There is no mystery to the gin and tonic or the whiskey and ginger. Some monikers are more cryptic; mules, bucks, Presbyterians, and Cape Cods are also highballs. Highballs are properly served over ice in their eponymous glass, which is tall and skinny and holds about eight to ten ounces of liquid; the shape of the glass showcases the bubbles at the same time it preserves them.

The highball is getting a fresh look, as bar operators are reminded of the value of drinks that are easy to make consistently and emphasize the underlying spirit. The Stalks of Rye highball at Dallas’s Proof + Pantry proves that cocktails don’t have to be complicated to be interesting. Consisting of rye whiskey, celery soda, and a dash of bitters, this food-friendly potation evokes the flavors of a New York delicatessen. Owner-operator Michael Martensen collaborated with bar manager Josh McEachern to create this drink. “I like to eat food that comes from someone’s soul, not something arranged with tweezers,” says Martensen. “And the same goes for cocktails.”​


3 ounces Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray soda
2 ounces rye whiskey
dash Angostura bitters
lemon wedge, for garnish

Fill a highball glass with ice and add the soda, rye, and bitters. Serve with a straw and garnish with the lemon.