What's Really In A Whiskey Highball?

Forgo a cold beer. How about a draft whiskey cocktail? Acclaimed Japanese whiskey distiller Suntory Toki created such a tap, which pours out a cold, perfectly balanced whiskey highball, reports Eater. Hardly a gimmick, such an invention reflects a nation's fixation on perfecting the two-component cocktail.

Whiskey highballs took off in Japan during the 1950s when the food-friendly and affordable alcoholic beverage became a working man's staple. After declining in the 1980s, a revitalized marketing campaign, alongside reinvigoration in bars, once again established it as a ubiquitous evening drink, per Drink Manila.

Highballs constitute a type of cocktail that isn't limited to whiskey but also includes familiar classics like rum and coke, as well as gin and tonic. Liquor and a carbonated mixer — seems easy enough, right? Well, as demonstrated through Japanese rituals, like stirring precisely thirteen and a half times (via Liquor.com), there's a lot of complexity that goes into a glass of this cocktail.

Whiskey highballs are made from whiskey, carbonated water, and ice

For a concoction of so few elements, every component must be controlled to perfection. Selecting a high-quality whiskey is a logical start, but such a thoughtful approach even applies to carbonated water and ice. And perhaps the most crucial factor? The temperature, Deke Dunne, head bartender and manager of Allegory in Washington D.C., explains to Vinepair.

Carbonated water is fizziest at near-freezing temperatures, improving the mouthfeel and the drink's flavor. And in Japanese preparations, the shape of the ice and how it's placed into the glass also matters, states Thrillist. Perfectly-molded ice cubes are stirred until frost appears, and the extra melted water is poured out.

Blended whiskeys, especially from Japan, are a common go-to for the boozy base. On the contrary, oak-forward spirits should be avoided since they do not cut well with water, reports Master of Malt. Lastly, don't forget about the crucial garnish, reports Bloomberg. For example, a spring of mint would go well with a smokey single-malt or a citrus slice with a blended whiskey.