Cocktail & Other Recipes Cocktail Type Nonalcoholic

H2O Highball

A tall highball glass with two large ice cubes, clear soda water and a slice of watermelon for garnish sits on a reflective surface. The highball and a bright pink background are hazily reflected in the surface.
Image: / Tim Nusog

They say the simplest cocktails are the hardest to master. This pre-Paleozoic sipper, then, is no exception, consisting of just three vital ingredients. Each adds depth, brightness, complexity and vivacity to this pleasing beverage. With proper balance, it’s a showstopper of a drink, the perfect cocktail to bring out at your next get-together with friends or to impress someone with on a first date. Furthermore, its low-to-no-proof status means you can enjoy this all evening without worrying about a headache the next day.

The H2O Highball is a finicky drink, however, and messing things up can disturb more than just the flavor profile. For instance, when selecting the small-batch spring water that serves as the base of the drink, it is crucial to select one with a strict 2-to-1 hydrogen-to-oxygen ratio. While ingredients like simple syrup are forgiving with their proportions, changing the water to, say, a 2-to-2 ratio could result in a very different sparkling drink, though one that is useful at disinfecting wounds. If you’re in an area where small-batch spring water can be hard to find on store shelves, substitutions include bringing a bucketful of water from a local spring or creek, or just pouring water from your tap.

There is some flexibility in the recipe, and exceptions can be made to parts of it. For those who want something a little stronger, try substituting the six ounces of water for two ounces of vodka, bourbon, rum, tequila, scotch or any other hard spirit, then switch out the watermelon garnish for some citrus fruit of your choosing. Or, omit the soda entirely and enjoy said spirit neat or over ice, with a bar spoon of distilled water to help the flavors open.

While the H2O Highball Cocktail is enjoyable year round, it’s best in springtime, especially early April. In fact, it’s generally best enjoyed on April Fool’s Day. Or just anytime you’re compelled to put in a lot of extra work for an iced club soda.


Click Play to See This H20 Highball Come Together


  • 6 ounces small-batch spring water (2:1 hydrogen-to-oxygen)

  • Sparkling water, chilled, to top

  • 1 teaspoon distilled water

  • Garnish: watermelon slice


  1. Fill a highball glass with cubed ice and set aside.

  2. Add the small-batch spring water into a shaker with cubed ice, and shake until well-chilled.

  3. Dump the ice from the highball glass, and replace with 3 large ice cubes.

  4. Using a handheld strainer, double strain the small-batch spring water into the highball glass, being careful to catch any wayward ice slivers.

  5. Top with the sparkling water.

  6. Float the distilled water over the top, making sure not to disturb the top layer as much as possible, and gently stir.

  7. Garnish with a watermelon slice.