Bourbon Highball Recipe: Bourbon and Soda With Some Optional Twists

Updated on January 27, 2017

An Old Classic: Bourbon and Soda

Bourbon is an all-American drink. Woody, usually with a trademark oak undertone, the drink dates back 200 years, when Kentucky brought this most American of spirits to life. It owes its existence to the abundance of corn grown in the region at the time and the Scotch and Irish settlers who brought their centuries of experience with whiskey into the production process.

Highballs are classics. And few highballs have the same pull as bourbon and club soda. The smoky, subtly sweet flavor of the bourbon melds perfectly with the tartness of club soda. I don't drink bourbon often, but when I do, I drink it with my hands cupped around the glass. I let the drink sit on my tongue a few seconds before swallowing so that all the notes of flavor can sing.

Several bartenders also serve a few twists on this classic drink that are sure to please more adventurous taste buds. I love them for nights on the town or lively dinner parties at home. These twists do not cover the flavor of the bourbon as some other recipes do, but rather, add to the notes already present in the spirit. You'll find these suggested twists just below the classic recipe.

Highball drinks make a classy evening drink for all occasions.
Highball drinks make a classy evening drink for all occasions. | Source

Classic Bourbon & Soda

You will need...

  • 2 oz. Bourbon
  • 2 oz. Club Soda
  • 3/4 cup Ice

Directions:

Fill a highball glass with the ice. Pour the bourbon over the ice. Add the club soda. Give the glass a little swirl, or use a small spoon or straw and swirl it once in the glass. Enjoy!

  • High-quality bourbons work best for the classic recipe, while lower-quality bourbons often benefit from variation recipes, since the flavor notes of low-quality bourbon may prove less pleasing to the palate.

Variation: Bourbon, Soda, & Lime

You will need...

  • 3 oz. Bourbon
  • 1 oz. Club Soda
  • 3/4 cup Ice
  • 1 Lime cut into 4 wedges

Directions:

Fill the highball glass with the ice. Pour the bourbon over the ice. Add the club soda. Give the glass a little swirl, or use a small spoon or straw and swirl it once in the glass. Squeeze juice from two of the lime wedges into the drink. Throw the third in the drink and hook the fourth on the glass.

Orange Bitters are an easy way to add depth and complexity to spirits like whiskey and, for our purposes, bourbon.
Orange Bitters are an easy way to add depth and complexity to spirits like whiskey and, for our purposes, bourbon. | Source

Variation: Bourbon, Soda, & Orange Bitters

You will need...

  • 2 oz. Bourbon
  • 2 oz. Club Soda
  • 3/4 cup Ice
  • Dash of Orange Bitters
  • Orange Wedge (optional)

Directions:

Fill the highball glass with the ice. Pour the bourbon over the ice. Add the club soda. Add a dash of the orange bitters. Give the glass a little swirl, or use a small spoon or straw and swirl it once in the glass.

  • Drinkers may substitute spring or tap water for club soda to eliminate carbonation.

Variation: Bourbon & Ginger

You will need..

  • 2 oz. Bourbon
  • 2 oz. Ginger Ale
  • 3/4 cup Ice
  • 1/4 tsp Fresh Minced Ginger (optional)
  • 1 Lemon Wedge (optional)

Directions:

Fill the highball glass with the ice. Pour the bourbon over the ice. Add the ginger ale. Add the minced fresh ginger. Give the glass a little swirl, or use a small spoon or straw and swirl it once in the glass. Toss the lemon wedge (un-squeezed) into the glass.

Drinkers can control the rate of dilution with the size of the ice cubes. Small cubes will dilute the drink more quickly, while larger cubes will preserve the strength of the drink. Note: many people prefer to soften the alcohol bite of bourbon with water in order to find some of the spirit's more delicate notes; for those people, smaller cubes serve best. For those who enjoy the alcohol flavor in combination with a bold bourbon flavor, larger cubes prove ideal.


  • Whiskey Stones work well with bourbon when drinkers prefer zero dilution from ice or club soda.

A Note on Quality Bourbons

The quality of the bourbon directly affects the quality of the drink experience. Because club soda works to bring out the distinctive notes of the spirits, drinkers should find a bourbon whose manufacturers have expended great effort on developing good flavor.

For those on a budget or in areas without access to high-quality bourbons, I recommend using the variations, which bring out some of the better bourbon notes while hiding the less desirable flavors of low-quality or cheaper brands.

Recommended Quality and Mid-Range Bourbons

  • 1792 Ridgemont Reserve (Barton Brands Distilling)
  • Basil Hayden's Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (Jim Beam Distillery)
  • Blanton's Special Reserve (Blanton Distilling Company)
  • Four Roses Bourbon (Four Roses Distillery)
  • Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve (Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery)
  • Woodford Reserve Distiller's Select (Labrot & Graham)

Recommended Budget Bourbons

  • Corner Creek (Corner Creek Distilling Company)
  • Elijah Craig Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (Heaven Hills Distillery)
  • Old Forester (Brown-Forman Distillers)

Questions & Answers

    Comments

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      • profile image

        Chris Henry 

        3 years ago

        I love Jim Beam Black Bourbon, aged 8 years, so smooth and complex.

      • Bob Go profile image

        Harry Baldwin 

        4 years ago from New England (various locations)

        I was just given a bottle of Woodfords Reserve which you mention as a gift. A small bit on the rocks was very nice last night, and going to try your "Variation: Bourbon, Soda, & Orange Bitters" tonight since I have some Orange Bitters handy!

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