Made from only two ingredients, mastering the process of making an excellent Japanese Highball is a form of art. If you get it right, the drink is crisp and light, it has the ideal carbonation and the perfect ratio of Whisky and soda water.
Highballs, in general, are an essential part of Japan's bar and restaurant culture. You'll find countless variations with different base spirits.
But as simple as it looks, making a Japanese Highball the traditional way means following exact steps and guidelines.
What's a Japanese Highball?
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 Whiskey Highballs, mostly paired with soda water. These drinks are served since the early 1900s. One of the most popular ones is probably Scotch & Soda.
Still, a Highball is more than simply putting together two ingredients. A Highball asks for perfect ratios and attention to detail.
Ratio recommendations range between 1:2 (1 part Whisky, 2 parts soda) and 1:4. A reasonable starting point, therefore, is the ratio of 1 part Whisky and 3 parts soda water.
More about Japanese Whisky
Japanese Whisky is renowned for its high quality, and they learned from one of the best - the Scots. That's also the reason why this style of Whiskey is best compared to its Scottish counterpart.
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
As I mentioned, making a Japanese Highball is about using the perfect ingredients in the right balance.
That also implies that choosing the perfect mixer to go with our Japanese Whisky base is very important. After all, the mixer accounts for the majority of the drink.
Two popular carbonated types of water are used in mixed drinks: soda water and Seltzer. The latter is simply carbonated water without any additional ingredients.
Soda, though, is enriched with minerals, creating a slightly salty, sometimes also sweet, flavor.
A Japanese Highball is typically made with soda water. The subtle mineral taste of the water makes the drink slightly more complex.
Glassware for the Japanese Highball
Surely, you know the iconic Martini and Old Fashioned glasses. And just like these classic cocktails, Highballs also have their own type of glass.
The Highball glass is tall and similar to a Collins glass. However, the Collins glass is even taller and narrower. The capacity of a Highball glass slightly varies between 8 to 12 ounces.
How to make the perfect Japanese Highball
To make this Highball, you should prepare the components upfront. Everything needs to be chilled, from the Highball glass to the ingredients.
Further, the ice should be crystal clear. A quality collins ice stick would be best, but regular clear ice cubes also do the trick.
Once all the ingredients are chilled, you can start by adding ice into a Highball glass. Stir it for 30 seconds, then remove any melted water from the glass.
Then add the Japanese Whisky and stir it exactly 13.5 times clockwise. That is a Japanese ceremony, so follow it if you want to create a traditional version of this Highball.
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.
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, keep in mind not to stir the final drink excessively. The metal bar spoon can affect the carbonation of the cocktail. So you potentially end up with a flat drink that tastes more like chilled and diluted Whisky.
- 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.
- Stir clockwise 13.5 times.
- Lift the ice with a bar spoon and gently pour the chilled soda water down its rivets.
- Stir 3.5 times clockwise to incorporate the ingredients.