The Highball has become an iconic symbol in a nation who, this week, would have been preparing to host The 2020 Summer Olympics.
Japan has a captivating and multi-dimensional culture. On one hand, it is deeply rooted in traditions dating back thousands of years, while on the other, it’s fast-moving trends, fashions and technology consistently break new ground.
At The Lakes, we hold a close affinity towards our friends in Japanese whisky distilleries. We share an unrelenting focus on learning, developing and continuously improving to create more flavour in our whisky. Constant introspection, innovation and a desire to learn from Scotch Whisky heritage but interpret it in our own way, align us as ‘new world’ whiskymakers.
Like in the UK, Japan is a nation of drinkers who, this week, would have been preparing to host the 2020 Olympic Games. With summer in full swing, crowds of people should be heading to izakayas to enjoy delicious highballs of Kirin, Suntory and Nikka inspired whisky with soda, accompanied almost always with food or otsumami.
The Japanese Highball has become an iconic symbol of Japanese drinking culture. Unlike so many other nations, it has been the catalyst for the country’s love of whisky, rather than the laggard, with everyone from party-goers to businessmen ending the workday enjoying whisky topped up with soda water.
Technically, it is the simplest of drinks to make, with the addition of water bringing out the natural flavours and characters of whisky beautifully. In softening the strength, it creates a more refreshing drink and, with innumerable options for garnish, the right Highball can complement almost any meal; making it perfect for a place where the two go hand in hand.
The art of creating the Japanese Highball is not, however, your average one-part whisky & three-parts soda. It is a cocktail crafted with meticulous attention to detail, using only the highest quality ingredients.
What you choose as the perfect highball is, of course, a matter of your own personal taste, and there are several ways to make the Japanese version.
First, select a chilled tall glass – the colder the better, as this compliments the soda water’s carbonation. Add plenty of ice, an active ingredient in the drink, with ice-making an art form in Japan where the style of cube, or ball, is often hand-carved to chill quickly and dilute slowly.
Next, pour your choice of whisky over ice. Blended whiskies are most common and in Japan are often created specifically for Highballs, but single malt can also work beautifully when topped up with soda water.
Once stirred, a garnish of lemon or lime zest or a wedge of citrus fruit juiced into the drink will complement almost every whisky choice.
The Mizuwari Highball
Perhaps the most famous Japanese Highball – and certainly most particular – is the Mizuwari.
Meaning ‘water’ (Mizu) and ‘divide’ (Wari), it is a ritual which begins by filling a tall glass with ice and stirring with a bar spoon until the glass is chilled.
Once any melted water has been discarded, large cubes of crystal clear ice are added, before whisky – in this case, The One Port Cask Finished – is poured and stirred 13½ times clockwise.
Delicately the glass is filled with sparkling water, poured between the glass and ice and, using a bar spoon, the mixture is stirred a further 3½ times clockwise.
Nestling the spoon underneath the base of the ice, lift gently upwards allowing the whisky and water to fully combine before enjoying a drink that is as equally refreshing as it is delicious.