Sparkling and fresh, the japanese whisky highball !

You may be wondering what is a highball ? Despite what you might think, it's indeed a beverage considered as a cocktail. Alcohol, lot of ice and a soft drink are the basic ingredients of a highball. In this article you will discover the most famous one made with whisky which was Japan's most popular mode of consumption during the japanese whisky golden age from the late 50's to early 80's, and recently returned on the front of the stage thanks to Nikka and Suntory.


  • What's a highball ?

The Highball is actually considered as a cocktail whose base composition is an alcohol added in larger proportion with non-alcoholic beverages, served in a large glass filled with ice. The most famous one is the "scotch and soda" (whisky with sparkling water), but you know many others such as orange vodka or gin and tonic.. Its origin is somewhat vague, it would have appeared in the late 19th century in the bars of golf club houses of the United Kingdom, where the term "ball" meant "whisky beverage", served in a high glass.

We'll give you the recipe of a special one : the japanese whisky highball, a fabulous way to discover whisky ! A whole new taste experience that will appeal to more refractory people. Fresh and sparkling whisky with an alcoholic level of a beer, that you can drink as an aperitif or with your food during the meal.


  • Highball and Japan, a long love story...

After a sharp slowdown due to the World War II, the japanese whisky enjoyed a golden age from the 50's to the 80's. As we already mentioned in another article, in Japan for cultural reasons, alcohol is usually consumed accompanied by food and the highball has therefore naturally become over the years among all other modes of consumption of whisky. But it's mainly thanks to the development of the Torys bars in the 60, a chain of bars created by Shinjiro Tori (founder of Suntory) where the Kakubin highball was the most popular drink, that this mode of consumption was heavily plebiscited.

Highball (19)

Torys bar

And like in every love stories there are ups and downs, from the late 80's whisky consumption in Japan is declining. The whisky is shunned by japanese people. Its aging picture causes trouble to the highball and the beer will be gradually preferred.

But in 2009 in Japan, Suntory decided to reassign the highball with great fanfare of publicity campaigns, offering a new approach : distribute it in cans ! The same format as beer, enough to give freshness to the whisky industry trying to regain a younger clientele.

Highball (11)


The Kakubin whisky mixed with sparkling water can be found in all supermarkets and grocery stores in the archipelago. The comparison with the beer is legitimate as well as the strategy behind for Suntory putting in the spotlight their whiskies and it's a very clever way to accustom the palate of young consumers to predispose them to move naturally with whisky. Nikka also offers highballs cans with his Black Clear and surprising his Taketsuru 12 years! Unfortunately, all these products are reserved for the domestic market.

On the foreign market in addition to the international recognition of japanese whisky, Suntory and Nikka use highball to promote their whiskeys, and reach a new younger audience, more active and more feminine.


We will now explain to you step by step the recipe of the highball, as we learned during our tour of the Yamazaki  distillery!

  • The japanese whisky highball recipe

Three ingredients go into the composition of a highball, whisky course, ice and sparkling water.

Which whisky for a highball ?

A wide range is available to you, starting with blends of Suntory and Nikka (Hibiki 12 years From the barrel, not to mention the Nikka pure malt Red, White, Black and Taketsuru), but you might as well enjoy a no age statment single malt (Yamazaki, Yoichi, Hakushu, Miyagikyo) in highball. This consumption pattern is perfect for the cheapest japanese whiskies, it would be a shame indeed drinking  a Yamazaki 25 years or a Yoichi 20 years in highball because adding sparkling water would affect the expression of all flavors. After it's a matter of taste and money !

The ice

The ideal would be to make your ice with mineral water. And the rule number one is to use large ice cubes that have the best cooling/dilution ratio. The purpose of a highball is not to dilute the whisky but rather to bring sparkle and freshness.

The sparkling water

Choose a sparkling water with large or tiny bubbles according to your preferences, but also a neutral water taste. Some whisky brands offer their own sparkling water as Suntory or Nikka, unfortunately very hard to find in Europe. Perrier or Badoit will do the job nicely.


  • The higball step by step

The shape of the glass is not very important as long as it can hold one dose of whisky for two doses of sparkling water. But served in a beer mug, I must admit that the highball  becomes more attractive!

Highball (26)



1) Fullfill your glass with big ice cubes.






2) Pour your whisky.






3) Stir with a large spoon to cool the whisky evenly. You will notice that the ice has melted a bit and you need to add more ice to the top of the glass before proceeding to the next step.






4) Pour very gently the sparkling water along your glass to maintain maximum bubbles. Stir one last time just to homogenize the temperature of the mixture.



Now your highball is ready ! You can enjoy it !


With the approach of summer and sunny days, the sparkling freshness of a highball is a great way to introduce japanese whisky to your friends or rediscover your favorite single malt.. And you, have you ever tried a highball ?


Sources et references : Wikipedia, Nonjatta,  Metropolis Magazine, Nikka, Suntory.


Published by Nicolas

The Saturday 13 July 2013 at 18h14


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