Chances are you’ve had a highball, whether you know it or not. A highball is any drink consisting of spirits, sparkling water, and ice. The definition of “sparkling water” is broad in this case, so a gin and tonic, a whiskey soda, a rum and Coke, and a mojito are all examples of highballs. Taken as a whole, the highball may be the most popular drink in the world. So, it’s good to know your way around the best highball glasses and to have a few good ones on hand at your home bar.
A highball glass is designed to hold a drink with a high ratio of a non-alcoholic mixer, like soda or tonic water, and ice. The glasses generally range in capacity from 11 ounces on the smaller side to 15 ounces on the larger side. Choose a smaller highball glass for things like G & T’s, where an excess of tonic would throw off the balance, and a larger glass for something like a Pimm’s cup where you need room for garnish and fruit slices. The height of a highball glass allows for high volume with a small surface area, which helps retain carbonation. A highball glass is generally shorter and wider than a Collins glass, but the two are similar enough that one can stand in for the other.
We assembled this list with the help of glassware and spirits experts to represent a broad range of designs and price points, from high-tech ultra-strong glasses from Japan to hand-blown glasses from Vermont. To make this list, the glass had to stand out with its artfulness, its utility, or, ideally, both. Price-wise, some of these you wouldn’t sweat a dinner guest dropping, while others you’ll want to take care of and pass on to your kids. All of them, however, are worth considering.
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These ultra-thin, 12.5-ounce glasses are made from proprietary Hard Strong glass by the Toyo-Sasaki glassware company in Japan. They are incredibly durable and dishwasher-safe, despite how thin they are. They are also stackable, which is rare for a highball and great for saving shelf space. “I love this glass for Japanese whisky highballs or Cuba libres,” says Kayoko Akabori, co-founder of Umami Mart, an Oakland, California, importer of high-end Japanese barware and kitchenware. “They’re also perfect for non-alcoholic cocktails and iced tea during the summer heat.”
Baccarat is a Paris-based producer of ultra-luxe crystal, making perhaps the finest glassware in the world. I inherited a few Harmonie highballs from my father — one of which still has a chip in it from a party in the ’90s — and I cherish them. There’s nothing like the feel of one in your hand; the perfect weight and the etched lines offer a comfortable grip. They make anything you drink from them feel special. At 11.5 ounces, they’re perfect for a gin and tonic or a mint julep.
The Modo highball has a clean, modern look without looking too much like chemistry beakers. They’re made of Schott Zwiesel’s Tritan crystal, which is extremely strong, dishwasher-safe, and clear. Tritan is also tempered at the rim, a common weak spot, for extra strength. At 14.6 ounces, they’re good for a drink where more volume may be desired, such as a mojito.
Also made from Schott Zwiesel’s Tritan glass, these glasses are likewise laser polished, dishwasher-safe, and break resistant. The design of this glass is inspired by Scottish tartan, with a crisscross design resembling the lines of plaid. At 11 ounces, it’s a lower volume glass perfect for a whisky and soda.
This highball stands out from the others on this list because of its heavier weight and rustic appearance. It’s handmade in Vermont by Simon Pearce glassblowers, and subtle variations between the glasses make each one a work of art. At 12 ounces, it’s a versatile size that falls in the middle of the highball volume range.
These glasses stand out to us for their thin, rippled texture and gold trim. They’re made of lead-free crystal and offer a far more festive, if slightly more specific, look than the other glassware on this list. They’re also the largest glasses here at 15 ounces. This extra volume makes them well suited to something like a Pimm’s cup or a mojito that will have fruit and garnish in the glass in addition to the fizzy liquid and booze.
Japanese Whiskey Highball Glasses
Japanese whiskey highballs are wildly popular right now, and they’re one of the few highball drinks that aren’t actually served in a highball glass. In Japan, they use one glass for whisky highballs and a more traditional highball glass for other kinds of highball drinks. This is because Japanese highballs are served bracingly cold, which requires a thicker glass (preferably chilled) to retain that coldness.
“I love the two Japanese approaches,” says Jared Brown, co-founder and master blender of Sipsmith Spirits in London. “Order a gin and tonic (technically a highball), and it comes in a paper-thin glass seemingly filled with a long hand-carved ice cube. Yet, if you order a ‘highball,’ it comes in a frozen beer mug with a handle, frozen. That’s key to a great highball.”
Here’s our recommendation if that’s what you’re hoping to recreate.
While not a highball glass, this is, ironically, the best type of glass for making a proper Japanese whiskey highball. It’s smaller than a beer mug, so it’s perfectly sized for a cocktail. And the thickness allows it to get extremely cold if kept in the freezer until you’re ready to make your highball.