Even though you only need two ingredients, mastering the process of mixing an excellent Japanese Highball is a form of art. If you get it right, the drink is crisp and light, with the ideal amount of carbonation and the perfect ratio of whisky and soda water.
Quick Facts Japanese Highball
- Method: build in glass
- Flavor profile: dry, subtle smoky, fruity notes from the whisky
- How to serve it: over ice
- Best glassware: highball glass
- Alcohol content: ~ 9%, 19 grams of alcohol per serving
As simple as it looks, making a Japanese Highball the traditional way means following exact steps and guidelines.
- 1 Jigger
- 1 Bar spoon
- 2 oz Japanese Whisky
- 6 oz Soda water
- Add ice into a Highball glass and stir it for 30 seconds.
- Get rid of excess water and pour in Japanese Whisky.2 oz Japanese Whisky
- Stir clockwise 13.5 times.
- Lift the ice with a bar spoon and gently pour the chilled soda water down its rivets.6 oz Soda water
- Stir 3.5 times clockwise to incorporate the ingredients.
About the Japanese Highball
As the name reveals, the Japanese Highball is part of the highball cocktail family - drinks usually made with two ingredients: a liquor base and a mixer.
The Japanese Highball belongs to the whisky highballs, usually paired with soda water, but other options are possible.
These drinks have been served since the early 1900s. One of the most popular ones is Scotch & Soda. As you may know, tradition and attention to detail are being held high in Japan. Hence, this drink is all about perfect ratios and following each step carefully.
For the Japanese Highball, you need -like the name implies- Japanese Whisky and carbonated mineral water:
- Japanese Whisky is renowned for its high quality, and they learned from one of the best - the Scots. The taste of Japanese Whisky is mellow and fairly dry, with fruity notes and a slightly smoky flavor. -And just like Scotch (and Canadian Whisky), the spirit is spelled without an "e" - whisky instead of whiskey.
- The mixer - soda or seltzer?: The mixer does account for a large portion of the drink, so you have to get this right. You have the choice between soda water and seltzer. The latter is carbonated water without any additions. Soda is enriched with minerals, creating a slightly salty flavor, which is what we want. Make sure you open it right before mixing so it holds enough carbonation.
Tipps for the Perfect Japanese Highball
Before you start making this drink, everything needs to be properly chilled. From the ingredients to the glass!
Further, the ice should be crystal clear. A quality Collins ice stick is best, but regular clear ice cubes do the trick. - The larger and clearer, the better - as long as they fit into your glass, of course.
Step 1: Once all the ingredients are chilled, you start the ritual by adding ice to your glass. Stir for 30 seconds - only the ice- then remove the melted water from the glass.
Step 2: Then add the whisky and stir it exactly 13.5 times clockwise. That is a Japanese ceremony, so you should follow this instruction for a traditional version of the Japanese Highball.
Step 3: Next, you add the chilled soda water. Use a bar spoon to lift the ice inside the glass. Then, pour the soda down the rivets of the spoon. This procedure ensures that the soda flows to the bottom of the glass where the chilled whisky sits.
Step 4: Finally, stir 3.5 times clockwise. Et voila, you just created a traditional Japanese Highball.
If you're not following the traditional 13.5 and 3.5 stir methods, refrain from stirring the finished drink excessively. The metal bar spoon and the stirring can affect the carbonation of the cocktail, and it might fall flat.
The Best Glassware
Highballs have their own type of glass that is tall and narrow, quite similar to a Collins glass. However, the Collins glass is even taller and more narrow. The volume of a Highball glass varies between 8 to 12 ounces.
The shape helps with maintaining the carbonation in your drink for longer. If you want to know more about the different glasses and their purposes, you can find this and more in our cocktail glassware guide.
Highballs, in general, are an essential part of Japan's bar and restaurant culture. You'll find countless variations with different base spirits.
Besides the whisky highball, there are also many variations of Shochu Highballs, like