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The Highball Story: A Short Liquid History

Tall glass, whisk(e)y, ice, and sparkling water—sounds like the recipe for a refreshing delight, but where did this simple concoction originate? As humans, we're fantastic at documenting all sorts of things, from the temperature of the sea to who won last week's bingo at the local community centre. But when it comes to tracing the origins of a drink, it's like trying to navigate through a whisky-induced fog—murky and mysterious, yet undeniably intriguing. Enter the whisky highball.



Let's kick things off with a trip to the theatre in 1894, where during a play, a character casually drops the line, "Talking about drinks, I think I will have one, bring me a highball of whiskey." Ah, the birth of a legend—albeit a modest one.


Now, for a deeper dive into the DNA of our beloved drink, we journey a year later to Cincinnati, where Chris Lawlor from Burnet House lays down the law on how to craft this libation: "Put in a thin ale glass, one lump of ice; fill with soda syphon seltzer to within an inch of the top, then float one-half jigger of whiskey or brandy." Simple yet precise, like a whisky aficionado's instructions for the perfect pour.



But wait, the plot thickens with a dash of PR flair from Tommy Dewar of Dewars Whisky fame. In a dazzling display of marketing prowess, Tommy claims to have birthed the highball 14 years earlier during his stint in New York. Legend has it that he strolled into a bar and requested 'A Ball,' a term synonymous with a whisky order. Unimpressed by the puny glasses, Tommy demanded taller ones, filled them with ice and soda water, and declared the birth of the 'Highball.' Now that's what I call a tall tale!




Of course, let's not forget our history lessons. Carbonated water dates to 1767 in England, and the first written record of crafting scotch whisky traces back to 1494. So, it's safe to assume that folks were probably mixing whisky with bubbles long before our theatrical friend and the illustrious Tommy made their mark on cocktail culture.


Ultimately, as we raise our glasses to the enigmatic origins of the whisky highball, it's worth noting that at CopperCairn, our passion for whisky extends beyond the glass. Our tours and tastings aren't just about sampling fine spirits—they're immersive experiences celebrating the rich history and craftsmanship behind every drop. From exploring hidden distilleries to uncovering the secrets of Speyside, we aim to ignite your curiosity and deepen your appreciation for Scotland's liquid gold. After all, just like the mysterious origins of the whisky highball, every dram tells a story, and we're here to help you uncover the tales hidden within each sip.


Cheers to whisky, highballs, and the remarkable journey they take us on!



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