With Portland Mercury's Highball Week 2019 in full swing through March 24, I'm doing my best to get out to support our local cocktail talent. While doing so, I've been asked several questions about highballs: How do you make one? How is it served? Why, and where, should I order one?
With these questions in mind, let's first get back to basics by answering, "What the heck is a highball, anyway?"
If you make alcoholic drinks at home, chances are, you are making "highballs."
When you combine soda or water with any liquor and add ice to it, that's a "highball." Gin & tonic, 7 & 7, Scotch & soda, and Jack & Coke are classic examples of highballs.
Typically served in a tall, straight-sided glass (aka a Highball glass) or a Collins glass (a taller and narrower glass than the Highball glass), whatever cylinder you serve it in, it is still a highball. Whether you dress it up with a garnish of lemon peel or a sprig of basil, or leave it naked, it's still a highball. It doesn't matter whether you use tap water, tonic water, La Croix, Red Bull, diet cola or anything of the sort, once you add any liquor to it-top shelf or low brow booze-and put it over any type of ice-a big, square cube, crushed, or plain ol' ice from your very own freezer, it is still a highball.
Since we've just discovered that what many of us are making at home are highballs, why should we get out and support Highball Week? Answer: Not only is it good for your introverted-self to put on pants and leave the house once in awhile, it's also your chance to support local talent and help keep Portland's small businesses alive. If that's not enough, during Highball Week, fifty-one restaurants and bars are offering a specialty highball for just $5.00.
As competent as we may be at making our own highballs at home, most home bars don't have specialty liquors or unusual garnishes. We don't have "cool" cubes or fancy glassware. And, we don't have bar skills in the way that "actual" bartenders do from years of training, dedication, practice, constant knowledge upgrades, and hospitality expertise.
Bit House Saloon– John Paul, who runs the bar program at Bit House Saloon, says "Highball Week is one of my favorite things to contribute to." In honor of it, John Paul created "Felix & Jules" as an homage to Felix Courvoisier and Jules Galiano. His highball features Courvoisier VS Cognac. This fruity blend of young and older cognacs, between three and seven years of age, is a bottle many of us don't have on-hand at home. If that's not enough, John Paul adds Bit House's house-smoked apple soda and vanilla bean syrup to his Highball Week beverage. I don't know about you, but I don't have those in my cupboard, either. Last week, I suggested trying their fried bologna sandwich as a pairing option. Now, oysters with citrus shallot mignonette may be an alternate way to roll.
Bit House Saloon 727 SE Grand. Open at 4:00 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Open at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday and Monday
Loyal Legion– Has your liquor cabinet run low on cucumber vodka and Curacao? Never heard of it? Run to Loyal Legion for their highly instagrammable Highball Week drink. At this Southeast beer hall, the "Blue Steel" is crafted with two types of Effen vodka, and blue Curacao, lemon juice, and simple syrup. Pair it with the McLoyal, a double-patty burger topped with secret sauce or go wild with their chicken & waffle slider, only $4 during happy hour.
Loyal Legion 710 SE 6th. Open daily at 11:30 a.m.
Sapphire Hotel Restaurant & Bar– Don't have Laphroaig 10-Year Scotch Whisky at home? No problem. Head over to Sapphire Hotel for their Highball Week contribution. Sapphire's "Hellz Yeah!" includes Laphroaig, Midori, and Spanish vermouth. While you're seated in this dark and classy Southeast restaurant, try these suggestions from Owner Tristan Evans; the grilled prawns or the farro risotto. Both sound like they may be an earthy complement to the smokiness of the highball. In the mood for a drink and dessert? Give the coffee budino, an Italian pudding with salted caramel, a try. Or, maybe the weekend brunch beignets...
Sapphire Hotel Restaurant and Bar 5008 SE Hawthorne. Open daily at 4:00 p.m.
Local 66 Bar & Grill– No matcha-lemongrass simple syrup sitting in your fridge? Head over to Local 66 Bar and Grill for their "Butterfly Effect." This inventive highball has a butterfly-pea infused Suntory Whiskey Toki float and Earl Grey bitters and comes topped with an orchid. (Butterfly-pea powder is made from butterfly-pea flower tea. When stirred into liquid, it typically turns a purple hue making for a very fun, highly instagrammable story.) Try pairing this specialty highball with Local 66's steak frites- a 12 ounce grass-fed, hand-cut ribeye with mushroom demi-glace, side salad, and rosemary truffle fries. Psst! It's on special right now for just $16.00.
Local 66 Bar and Grill 6618 SE Powell. Open daily at 10:00 a.m.