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You’re probably familiar with a handful of highballs: the classic Gin & Tonic, the Rum & Coke, the Paloma. Maybe you get fancy with a Dark & Stormy or a tarted-up Pimm’s Cup. But not many folks are working at actively expanding the booze + soda = drink genre. Morgan Schick of San Francisco’s Trick Dog is—a handful of unusual highballs have appeared on every menu since the bar’s opening.
“You’re not always in the mood for a cocktail,” says Schick, “so the idea was to offer different styles of drinking” at Trick Dog. The highball selection, notes Schick, was meant to “highlight different flavor combinations that we think are cool, in a super-accessible format.”
The drinks are as simple as can be: just spirits or aperitifs mixed with a range of sodas (the Trick Dog team picks the pop up at Mission neighbor The Fizzary), sometimes with a squeeze of lime for acidity. The quantity of booze varies: lower-proof liqueurs sometimes get as much as two ounces, while stronger-flavored stuff like Scotch needs less. All of these drinks are made in 10-ounce highball glasses. Schick recommends pouring the strong stuff first, then filling the glass with ice and topping the drink off with soda. Give it a little stir and taste: if it’s too strong for you, add more soda. Too weak? Add booze.
I asked Schick if he’d be willing to share his highball secrets; here are the formulas for five favorites.
Morgan Schick is always trying sneak sherry into drinks; here it’s a really, really good idea. Nutty oloroso sherry (two ounces of Hidalgo Oloroso ‘Faraon’) adds a rich, wood-aged character to bright Sidral Mundet apple soda. The mix is reminiscent of a tart caramel apple dipped in nuts. Add a squeeze of lime to keep it fresh.
Schick says this combination came to him in a dream—though the details are fuzzy, he recalls pouring sweet and herbal, fennely Chartreuse into a bottle of Yoo-hoo. The real-life version is made with one ounce of Green Chartreuse in an ice-filled glass, topped with Durango Soda Company’s Coco Fizz Chocolate soda (“it tastes like a Tootsie Roll,” notes Schick.) Garnish with an orange twist.
If you can’t find Coco Fizz, Schick says you can try it with any chocolate soda—or a mix of club soda and Fox’s U-Bet Chocolate syrup.
“If there are two things Josh [Harris, one of Trick Dog’s owners] likes,” says Schick, “it’s aquavit and Cel-Ray.” The savory drink was one of the first they tried, and part of the inspiration for exploring highballs in the first place. This combination of 1 1/2 ounces of Linie Aquavit and Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray soda has an herbal, vegetal bite.
This recipe started with the Maurin Blanc Vermouth: “When I tasted it,” recalls Schick, “I thought, ooh, that’s going to be good with pineapple.” Use two ounces of the Maurin (or another white vermouth such as Dolin Blanc), then top with Jarritos pineapple soda and a squeeze of lime. “I could drink so many of these,” says Schick.
This fruity, spicy combination is my personal favorite of the bunch. Magenta-hued Sioux City Soda’s Prickly Pear is spiked with 1 1/2 ounces of Ancho Reyes spicy liqueur and finished with a squeeze of lime. “Mexican chilies and prickly pear soda just seemed like a natural match,” said Schick of the inspiration behind the drink.
Have you tried any fun highball combinations lately? What’s your favorite booze + soda combo?
About the Author: Maggie Hoffman is a Senior Editor at Serious Eats, based in San Francisco. She founded Serious Eats: Drinks in 2011. You can follow her on Twitter @maggiejane.