Greet winter in highball form with this Chai Highball. Rather than holding out for yet another warm whiskey drink, I’m switching to chai-infused whiskey, tropical syrups and a touch of spicy bitters to build up the flavor profile of this approachable highball. With each sip you get a lovely combination of winter spice from the highball and citrus tickles from the carbonated orange soda.
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To make this chai-infused highball, we’ll infuse the bourbon for about 10 minutes with a bag of hot chai tea and then let it sit for about a week to deepen in flavor. Don’t worry, you won’t regret the wait. While initially there will be some great chai flavors, giving the infusion some time to settle and deepen is the key to taking this highball from tropical flavors to feeling like a winter tipple.
What’s in a Highball?
A highball is a blissfully simple cocktail in its most basic form. A highball usually consists of a bit of whiskey, and a touch of carbonated seltzer or soda. If you’ve ever ordered a seven and seven you’ve had a variation of the highball with Seagram’s 7 and Seven-up. In their classic form they are simple to make, but are designed to highlight the flavor of the whiskey in a refreshing and wholly approachable drink.
To infuse any spirit, you’ll just take a bag of chai tea, quickly dip it in hot water, then steep in the spirit for about 10 minutes, and no longer than 15. With tea infusions, if the tea bag is not 100% herbal and contains black, green or white tea, the tea itself dries out the spirit – adding tannic notes and contributing to a drier and less creamy mouthfeel.
Because we want to retain the lovely mouthfeel of the whiskey we’ll use, we only infuse for under 15 minutes when using a tea with green, black or white tea leaves in it. Any longer than that and you risk a pucker in the final version of the spirit.
For a tea infusion, I find it helpful to do the initial infusion, then wait 10-14 days for the flavor to deepen in the spirit. I learned this through experimentation. The infusion was good the first day, but at 10 days, it was heaven in a glass. So let it rest if you have time.
Tropical Flavors in a Winter Drink
It’s the middle of December, but I love the combination of chai tea and pineapple flavors. In addition, I’m using the Franklin and Son’s Mandarin Mixer available at Fresh Market. It’s a British product just now making its way across the pond, and the mandarin citrus notes from this carbonated soda add the fragrance of dried orange peel to the highball, tying in a lovely way with the citrus, cinnamon and cardamom flavors.
While I was given this mixer as a sample by Franklin and Son’s, I do enjoy the intriguing taste of this citrus flavored mixer, and when combined with the flavor of a chai infusion it’s a lovely drink.
To build on those citrus flavors, I used a homemade pineapple syrup and just a small amount of lemon simple syrup. But to really punch up the flavors I added cardamom bitters from Scrappy’s Bitters, and a Pineapple Serrano Bitter from JD Bittering in Louisville. The two pulled down the sweetness of the mixer and simple syrups and tied well to the spice infusion of the chai tea in the whiskey.
How to Make the Chai Highball
We’ll make this so easy you can build in the glass. Add 1.5 oz chai-infused whiskey, ½ oz pineapple syrup and a dash of lemon simple syrup. Add in 3 dashes of the pineapple serrano bitters and 12 dashes of the cardamom bitters and stir briefly after adding ice.
Other Highballs You Might Enjoy
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You probably already have these, but you may need them, too:
- 1.5 oz chai-infused whiskey
- ½ oz pineapple syrup**
- 1/4 oz lemon simple syrup***
- 12 drops Scrappy’s cardamom bitters
- 3 dashes JD Bittering Pineapple Serrano bitters
- 4-6 oz Franklin & Sons Mandarin Mixer
- Garnish: dried orange pineapple. Cinnamon stick, star anise
- Combine whiskey, pineapple syrup, lemon syrup and bitters in a rocks glass half filled with ice. Stir. Add more ice and top with the orange flavored mixer. One quick stir with a spoon then garnish as desired.
- 3/4 cup lemon juice
- 3/4 cup sugar
- Peels from the fresh lemons you just juiced – just the peel, no pith