Highball glasses are used typically for tall mixed drinks and can hold between eight and twelve ounces (24 to 35 cL) of liquid. Of the many types of glassware, highball glasses are distinguished by their straight sides and can have a flat base or a footed stem. Highball glasses are smaller than Collins or Zombie glasses, but larger than the Delmonico glasses. Highball glasses are similar in shape to the Collins glass and hold the same amount of liquid, but the Collins glass is narrower than the highball glass. Highball glasses are versatile and can be interchanged with the Collins glass, and like other stemware, can also be used to serve beer or soda. In different geographical areas, highball glasses are also known as a slim jim or a cooler.
Highball glassware is a staple in any collection of cocktail glasses and can be used for drinks such as a Salty Dog, Colorado Bulldog, Vodka and Cranberry, or the ever popular Whiskey Sour. A traditional highball drink is made using one shot of rye whiskey over ice, filling the remainder of the highball glass with ginger ale. The term highball refers to a family of mixed drinks that have a high proportion of mixer to alcohol. Traditionally a highball drink is served over ice and made up of one liquor and one mixer such as water or a carbonated drink. Optional garnish such as a slice of lemon, lime, or orange may be added.
The exact origin of the highball name is still unclear, however, Patrick Duffy, a New York barman, claimed that he invented the highball in 1895. Other references indicate the highball term didn’t surface until approximately 1898. The highball glass was named as such because railroad practices in the 19th century included raising a ball on a pole to indicate to a passing train driver that he needed to speed up and move quickly. The highball drink is served quickly, hence the name. The day of time the drink is consumed may also explain the highball name. A cocktail is enjoyed during the evening hours before dinner, and a highball consumed in the afternoon when the sun is still high.
The highball glass tumbler, like other glassware, comes in a few different styles. Most bars and restaurants will serve drinks in a clear, plain highball glass, but hand-painted and tinted highball glasses are also available for the personal bar collection.