It’s officially Spring in Baltimore. The good news is that Flowermart and Preakness are right around the corner. The bad news is that Spring also means household chores and Spring cleaning. There is a silver lining though, and it is that Spring cleaning also means cleaning out your home bar.
If you’re like us, you’ve been hoarding bottles the way squirrels hoard nuts during your winter hibernation. There’s no time like the present for streamlining your bar, and one of the easiest ways to do that is by mixing highballs.
First a clarification: Wikipedia tells us that the term highball originally referred to scotch and soda, but has grown to encompass almost any combination of liquor and soft drinks, mostly but not exclusively of the carbonated variety. A highball is usually what people refer to with the term “mixed drinks” as opposed to “cocktails” which are typically comprised mostly of liquor.
In bars and taverns, some particular highball combinations enjoy a longstanding popularity; Jack and Coke, Gin and tonic, Bourbon and ginger ale, Seven and Seven, etc. Those are all solid choices, but at home having too much, or not enough of one ingredient can lead to some unexpected choices. After all, the best part of home bartending is experimentation…
- 10: Vodka and Flavored Seltzer. Take a trip up the soda/water aisle in the grocery store and you’ll find plenty of lightly flavored seltzers which aren’t stocked in bars and which are much cheaper than regular sodas. these are a perfect choice for Spring and Summer drinking.
- 9: Jameson and Lemonade. This doesn’t sound so good on paper, but something about it just works. The combo of malt and citrus makes for a slightly organic taste, and of course, there’s a ton of sugar in there too. We once brought home a bottle Wasmund’s malt whisky, and the only way we could power through it was by adding lemonade.
- 8: Vodka and Sweet Tea. Sometimes known as an Icepick, this is a drink that is best drunk at home, because no bar or restaurant we know of locally makes tea the right way: Sweet.
- 7: Gin and Sprite. Most gin drinkers will reach for tonic every time, but we’ve got a sweet tooth. Sprite is the only thing we’ve found so far that makes us like gin enough to drink it throughout the evening.
- 6: Vodka and Cran-Raspberry. This is actually our father’s drink of choice. Any bar can pour you a Cape Cod, but you’ve got to be at home to make it with cran-raspberry. And trust us, it’s much better that way.
- 5: Dark Rum and Lemon Water. It’s hard to say what we mean by lemon water. It’s much more tart and lightly flavored than lemonade, and only slightly carbonated. Not quite water, not quite soda, you’ll know it when you see it. Whatever it is, the lightness and crispness of it is a perfect complement to the syrupy quality of a rum like Myers’s or our own favorite, the Kraken.
- 4: Light Rum and Fruit Punch. Check your fridge, you might have a bottle of fruit punch hanging around back there. You know the kind we mean, mostly grape juice, some pear juice, a small fraction of other juices, and a palm tree on the label. make sure to use rum and not vodka to avoid unpleasant memories of “jungle juice.”
- 3: Tequila and Snowballs. Most people who are from here don’t realize that snowballs are native regional fare for Baltimore. They also often don’t realize that they’re best enjoyed with liquor dumped all over them. There are a ton of winning flavor and liquor combinations, but you can’t go wrong with tequila and a key lime pie flavored snowball. Just be sure to skip the marshmallow topping.
- 2: Bourbon and Apple Cider. Granted, this is more of a seasonal drink for the Fall, but it is good enough to drink year round. Plain old apple cider is such a great mixer, it’s surprising that more hoity-toity bartenders haven’t caught on to its use as a cocktail ingredient.
- 1: Anything and Limeade. Limeade is pretty gross on its own, but it’s one of the most versatile mixers you can buy. Most of the types you find at the store are of pretty good quality too, since they’re not all artificial sweeteners and citric acid like most lemonades. Works with rums, tequila, gin, and just about every one of the 10,000 flavored vodkas out there. Best bet: Cherry vodka limeade.