For most people the first type of cocktail they make is a simple two-part highball, whether it be spirit and soda or spirit and another mixer. The easiest next step is to class it up a little bit with the addition of a third ingredient. A simple three ingredient drink, while some would still call it a highball, many would in fact consider it a cocktail. Based on your crowd, this can really make you seem like quite the mixologist. This simple move from two ingredients to three ingredients even if you’re still using soda and cheap liquor can make quite a difference in taste and complexity. For example, one of my fiancé’s favorite drinks at her college bar was a gin and lemonade. Adding a little bit of elderflower liqueur into that same drink gave it a deeper and more complex flavor that I would gladly serve to anyone. While only playing a minor role (in terms of volume), the third additive creates a more memorable and impressive drink. A second way to step up your cocktails beyond highballs is to create syrups and add sparkling water instead of soda. This practice not only creates a more natural and better tasting product, you can also vary the amount of sweetness in each drink. Exchanging soda for syrups and sparkling water, also reduces the amount of soda that must be dumped once it goes flat (especially if you are using a soda stream for instant sparkling water). In the case of lemonade, replace it with some simple syrup and lemon juice as a less sweet and more delicious option. So, my challenge to you is to up your cocktail game in one of these two simple steps: adding a third ingredient to deepen flavor and increase complexity, or create syrups that can be used in conjunction with sparkling water to eliminate the need for soda.
Below are a couple additions to common highball cocktails to create cocktails out of them.
*A little disclaimer for these recipes most of them taste much better with a better-quality soda mixer, for example a Mexican Coke that uses cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup.
Rum & Coke + Lime juice & lime garnish = Cuba Libre
Vodka Cranberry + Triple Sec & lime garnish = Cosmopolitan (roughly)
Vodka & Soda + Lime & Mint = Moscow Mojito
Whiskey Ginger (– Ginger Ale + Ginger Beer) & Lime juice = Kentucky Mule (also a good one to sub ginger syrup)
Add Elderflower Liqueur in vodka soda, gin lemonade, vodka cranberry, and even screwdrivers to add complexity and a floral hint.