The Perfect Ratio For A Top Notch Japanese Whisky Highball

At your go-to local dive bar, the whiskey highball is a utilitarian workhorse that carries you from the end of your shift to the start of your night. At a formal cocktail joint – or, with some curation, your home bar — the whiskey highball can be a minimal shadowbox for showcasing the flavor and fullness of a high-quality spirit. When you're looking for a complex, dimensional taste to elevate this refreshing, fizzy sipper, Japanese whisky is the best tool. 

The ideal liquor-to-mixer ratio for a smoky American whiskey highball is 1:4, but when working with a lighter Japanese whisky, a 1:3 ratio is the best fit for the job, preferably 1 ½ ounces of Japanese whisky and 4 ½ ounces of soda water. This slightly punchier proportion creates a drink that is dry, spirit-forward, and simple yet satisfying. 

The Japanese whisky highball is far more than just a whiskey and soda. Fans praise Japanese whisky for its bright, fresh, light flavor profile and medium body, especially compared to more intense American whiskey brands like smoky, heavy Jim Beam. With the fizzy soda water and block ice, the drink is designed to emphasize the art of the world-class liquor while bringing down its ABV into more accessible territory (which can be especially desirable if you've just shelled out for a $200+ bottle of Hakushu 12-year and don't dig sipping your whisky neat).  

Use one parts Japanese whisky to three parts soda water (and thank us later)

Indeed, a proper Japanese whisky highball is all about precise preparation — the science-meets-art intersection is crucial for taking straightforward two-parters from bland to unforgettable. For optimal dilution and temperature control, chill your Japanese whisky highball with two large cubes of block ice, which will allow the spirit to open up and breathe, flexing its most nuanced secondary tasting notes. You could (and frankly should) also stash your Japanese whisky bottle in the freezer for an even frostier cocktail with better-preserved carbonation. For added chilling and dilution, some bartenders assemble their Japanese whisky highballs by thoroughly mixing the whisky with the block ice (exactly 13 ½ times counter-clockwise) before filling the rest of the glass with ice and topping it all off with soda water. 

The drink is customarily made in a chilled highball glass. To avoid over-agitating and accidentally wrecking the fizzy carbonated mouthfeel, insert a long-handled bar spoon into your glass, pour in the soda water down the arm of the spoon, and stir just two or three times to mix. Garnish with a slice of fresh grapefruit and a lemon twist, expressing the oils from the peel around the rim of the glass. Thirsty for more inspo (or more ways to put that bottle to good use)? Thanks to its balanced zing, Japanese whisky is also the best fit for crafting a knockout Mamie Taylor — another highball made with lime juice and ginger beer.