In recent times, the Japanese Highball has been gaining much attention and notoriety around the world, having been a staple in Japan for some time. This simple, yet elegant cocktail, created by carefully mixing whisky, soda and ice, is served by the thousands in Tokyo, Osaka and other hubs around Japan as revelers enjoy their weekends.
Over the years, the method of making a top quality highball has become something of an art, with some bartenders training for years to create the perfect drink. But now, as the world opens its eyes to highballs, they are being made in increasing numbers in bars and households around the globe.
The highball is a ridiculously refreshing way to drink whisky, with the ice-water and soda water combining to open up the spirit, bringing out lots of fruity and spicy notes just waiting to be explored.
With that in mind, today we’ll be looking at a simple method for making a quality highball and discussing our favourite Japanese whiskies to use so that you can enjoy this delight as well.
The method for creating a good highball is fairly simple on the face of it, but can take some time to master, however with some good whisky and some practice, it won’t be long before you’re making excellent drinks for your family and friends.
To get started, you’ll want to get your hands on some good quality ice, with no bubbles or minerals, if possible. It’s not the end of the world if you can’t find or make this, simply use normal ice instead, but if you plan on perfecting the highball method, you will eventually need to source quality ice.
Once you have your ice in hand, break it into smaller, golf-ball sized chunks and fill a tall glass. Swirl the ice around the glass in a circular motion until the outside of the glass becomes chilled. Now, pour away the water at the bottom, retaining the ice in the glass.
Pour your whisky measure of choice down the inside of the glass, ensuring not to pour it over the top of the ice. Gently stir the whisky in the bottom.
Now, ensure the glass is fully topped up with ice, before carefully pouring over the soda water.
At this point we’re nearly ready to drink our wonderful highball, but before we do that, we have to deal with perhaps the most important part of the entire process – the mixing.
In order to correctly mix your highball, slide a long spoon down the inside of your glass, placing it under the ice, and then lift it up through the ice and the entire cocktail. This will cause the whisky, ice-water and soda water to completely mix together and, if done correctly, should create a small amount of froth on the top of the glass.
Voilà – you’ve successfully created your first highball and it is ready to be enjoyed.
It’s all very well knowing the method to create a good highball, but if you don’t pick the right whisky, all of that work and effort could be wasted, and we certainly don’t want that. So what whisky should you choose?
In Japan, Suntory Kakubin Yellow Label is the most popular choice, used in bars, clubs and restaurants across Japan’s busy cities.
Kaku, as it is more commonly known, was the second whisky ever created and released by Suntory, all the way back in 1937. Since then it has been one of the very best selling whiskies across the entire country, lasting the test of time.
In today’s market, Kaku is one of the much cheaper options, given the soaring prices of Japanese whisky, but that shouldn’t put you off – it’s still a quality product and one that is perfect for using in highballs.
Should you decide Kaku is the highball whisky for you, you’ll experience a gentle, soft and elegant cocktail that is as refreshing in the summer as it is warming in the winter.
Should you be looking to add some extra layers of flavour to your highball, the Nikka From The Barrel is a superb choice.
This world blended expression has made waves since its introduction to the international market, becoming a staple in many households around the world and picking up some prestigious awards to boot.
On its own, it’s a gentle whisky that brings a unique mix of elegant fruits and spices that work the nose and palate in tandem to create a drinking experience to remember.
It brings all of these elements to your highball, adding layers of gentle spice and juicy fruits that bring the cocktail to life.
It’s a fantastic whisky that makes a brilliant highball, and at its relatively low price point, it’s hard to find a reason not to pick this one.
If you’re looking to add a little bit of spice to your highball, there’s no better choice than the Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve.
This entry level whisky in the Yamazaki core range brings rich notes of sherried fruits, blackberries and gentle oak, backed up by cinnamon and black pepper spice.
When used in a highball, it adds a layer of richness to the cocktail while imparting delicate spices that tickle the tongue as you sip. The results are quite different from your usual highball, but makes a delicious and unique change should you decide to mix things up.
It’s an entry level whisky, but one that has excellent quality, resulting in a delicious, flavour-packed highball that really brings the best out of the spirit.
If you decide you want to take your highball up another level, we’d highly recommend trying the Hakushu 12 Year Old. This whisky is a little more expensive, so might not be one you would initially want to create a cocktail with, but should you decide to experiment, you won’t be disappointed.
The Hakushu 12 embodies the Suntory distillery’s mountainous surroundings in true style. It’s clean, crisp and refreshing and delivers elegant fruits, floral tones and very subtle peat smoke.
When used in a highball, it becomes even more refreshing (if that is at all possible), with the gentle floral tones and peat smoke becoming the stars of the show. The peat builds as you sip, while red berries and subtle citrus make themselves known throughout.
It’s a brilliant creation that you’re sure to enjoy and it’s definitely worth using a little of that precious Hakushu 12 to experience it. You might even end up deciding to use the whole bottle!
Whichever whisky you choose to use, we’re sure you’ll enjoy mastering the process of highball creation and refreshing your palate with all of the joys it brings.
Don’t feel like you have to use one of our recommended whiskies either, go ahead and experiment. I’ve seen highballs created with all sorts, from Jameson to Yamazaki 12 and Macallan Select Oak, and they all offer something entirely unique.
Find the one that’s right for you and enjoy!