Though some whisky lovers are firmly against adding any amount of water or ice to their dram, there’s a solid case to be made for the Scotch and Soda—a classic highball that tops a measure of whisky with at spritzy slug of soda water.
The drink is a tried and true classic. In the U.S., drinkers have been topping off a measure of scotch with soda water since at least the late 1800s, when the practice was purportedly imported from England. It’s also had its fair share of time in the spotlight, making appearances in movies like the 1934 film The Thin Man in which private detective Nick Charles (William Powell) and his wife Nora (Myrna Loy) drink the highball at parties, as a hangover cure and once after Nick was nearly gut-shot. The drink even shows up in 007’s escapades.
Aside from its proven track record, the Scotch and Soda is also a great gateway cocktail for beginner scotch drinkers, as the soda significantly mellows the intensity of scotch. Though the drink is most often made with blended scotch, the flavors of single malts work just as well. Here are our five favorite whiskies to use in a Scotch and Soda, whether you like yours spicy, smoky, fruity or floral.
If apple picking is your favorite falltime activity, you’ll want to get your hands on a bottle of this Highland single malt. It’s aged in both American oak and sherry casks, giving it a lovely honey and apple flavor that translates nicely to a refreshing Scotch and Soda.
Though you could certainly mix a smokier scotch with soda, this bottle from Islay distillery Bowmore balances its intense peat flavors with fruity and honeyed qualities that make it a great contender for the simple highball. While the flavors of smoke come through, they’re not overpowering.
For a Super-Smooth Scotch and Soda: The Famous Grouse
The most affordable bottle on this list at about $20, The Famous Grouse is a no-brainer choice for the Scotch and Soda. It’s a blended whisky—the standard type of whisky used for scotch cocktails—but it is so richly flavored and balanced that it can even be drunk neat. It also shines in the simple Scotch and Soda.
If you want a little blossomy goodness in your Scotch and Soda, try this expression from Glenkinchie. Though it’s fairly light and mild on its own, it punches up the simple cocktail with floral, nutty and cereal-grain notes.
Named for Captain William McCoy who smuggled Cutty Sark into the U.S. during Prohibition, this blended scotch sings in a Scotch and Soda. Bottled at 50 percent ABV, it has a more prominent spicy flavor than lower-proof bottlings. You’ll get a nice bouquet of sweet maple notes and orchard fruit that will shine through a soda topper.