The term 'highball' itself refers to a family of mixed drinks that have a higher proportion of mixer to alcohol. Though the exact origin of the name is unclear, a New York barman named Patrick Duffy claimed that he invented the term in 1895. Then again, there are certain other references that indicate that the term did not surface till 1898. The highball glass was named such because railroad practices during the 19th century included raising a ball on a pole to indicate to a passing train that the driver needed to move at a quicker pace than usual by speeding up. The highball drink is also served really quickly--hence the name. Furthermore, the time of day when the drink is consumed may also explain the name--a cocktail is generally enjoyed in the evenings, a few hours before dinner, but a highball is consumed in the afternoon when the sun is still high in the sky.
In some regions, these glasses are also known by names such as 'Slim Jim' and 'Cooler'. Normally, the drink is served over ice and is made with one part liquor and one part mixer (water or a carbonated drink, for example), and garnished with a slice of lemon, lime or orange.
These glasses are typically used for serving tall mixed drinks--their size is such that they can hold between eight to twelve ounces of liquid at a time. These glasses are typically distinguished by their tall, straight sides with a flat base or a footed stem, and though they are relatively smaller than the Collins or the Zombie glasses, they are larger than the Delmonicos. These glasses are relatively similar in shape to the Collins glass and hold the same amount of liquid; however, the Collins glass is narrower in diameter. Furthermore, the highball is far more versatile because, like other stemware, it can also be used to serve soda or beer.
These drinking glasses are available in several different styles that include not only clear and plain designs, but also hand painted and tinted sets.
Highball glassware is a standard in any collection of cocktail glasses and can be used for drinks such as Salty Dog, Colorado Bulldog, Vodka, Cranberry, and the ever popular--Whiskey Sour. A traditional highball drink is made by using one shot of rye whiskey over ice. The rest of the glass is then filled with ginger ale.