Japanese Highball – Classic Recipe

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Japanese Highball

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Course: DrinksCuisine: American






Total time



Learn how to make a classic Japanese Highball.


  • 2 oz 2 Scotch

  • 5 oz 5 Soda Water


  • Technique: Build In Glass
  • Combine all ingredients except for the soda water in a glass.
  • Fill the glass with ice.
  • Stir to combine and chill the ingredients.
  • Gently add the soda water and give the drink a couple of last stirs to mix it fully.


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How The Japanese Highball Is A Structurally Correct Highball.

While many long drinks in tall glasses tend to be called highballs and are often thought of that way, a structurally correct highball is simply 1 part spirit, 2-2.5 parts carbonated beverage, and optional bitters or citrus peel. They do not contain juice or additional sweetener. I love this cocktail, and it’s usually what I often make for myself when I’m home. It goes down easy and gives me the pleasure of drinking a beer without the bloat. While the Japanese did not create the highball, they have maintained the classic highball better than American or British cultures. The highball has continued to stay a popular beverage there.

Keep This In Mind When Drinking A Japanese Highball.

Again even though it’s called a Japanese highball, it was not invented by the Japanese. It’s called that because it’s still a trendy cocktail with Japanese business people after work. Similar to how the Japanese jigger was originally American, it eventually fell out of fashion in the USA and remained popular in Japan. Sadly most Americans find this cocktail dull at first taste and need to be told its history or how it’s popular in Japan to say, “oh, ok. I see”. American and British cocktail culture is one more strong drink with juice-filled big flavors, and those are good, but this cocktail is all about subtlety done perfectly. This cocktail is all about the perfect technique.

The Most Important Part To Making A Japanese Highball.

Most cocktails live in a gradient from good to bad and fall somewhere between. How well-made or poorly made a cocktail will end up is based on ingredients and preparation. The most crucial part of creating a Japanese highball and the mizuwari is your technique. How well you prepare each ingredient before moving on to the next step will make or break this cocktail. No joke, this can only be 1 of 2 things, perfect or awful. Learning how to prepare this cocktail taught me more about mixing drinks than any other cocktail.

1). Start with a chilled glass. Stemware matters too. Use a highball, collins, or zombie glass (they are all pretty similar anyway). The drink needs a heavy broad base to hold extra coldness, and the straight sides make stirring easier. Pint glasses are delicate, but they taper to a smaller base which means less cold surface area to whiskey ratio. Next, add your ice, and since the glass is already chilled, there is no need to use the ice to chill it. If the glass is not chilled, stir the ice to cool the glass and dump the water that has melted off. Also, the ice is vital. This is the ice served with the drink, so it should be challenging, clear, and freezing ice. This is done to dilute the whiskey as little as possible before adding the soda water. It should be refreshing bubbly soda water lengthening the whiskey, and not warmed melted ice.

2). Next, add your whiskey and stir for maybe 10 seconds. This is to cool the whiskey down to near freezing so that once you add the soda water, the warmth of the whiskey does not force carbonation to leave the drink. You don’t want to over stir and add risk adding too much water to the whiskey, thus diluting it too much and making for a flat cocktail. Ice is typically around 0°F (-18°C), and whiskey freezes at -17°F (-27°C). So if you keep stirring, it will keep getting colder and colder until it becomes the same temperature as the ice, 0°F, but it doesn’t need to get that cold. The drink is getting far colder than it needs to be and gaining extra flat melted ice. It just needs to match the temperature of the soda water. Soda water will be refrigerated, making it around 34°F (1°C). Then again, you don’t know when you have hit 34°F, so just stir for 10 seconds. That will get you in the right ballpark.

3). Next, add the soda water. The ratio is 1 part whiskey to 2 – 2.5 parts soda. You’ll want to vary this based on how strongly flavored the whiskey is. You aim to balance and open up the flavors, so a more intensely flavored whiskey may want 5oz soda water to 2oz whiskey, and a more subtle whiskey would work better with 4oz soda water to 2oz whiskey. Know the whiskey and add what you think will make it taste better. Also, how you pour is essential too. Don’t be violent and pour it in. Pour gently and down the side of the glass to maintain as much carbonation as possible. The warmer and more aggressive the pour, the more bubbles will leave.

4). Finally, give it just two last stirs. Although don’t just turn the spoon in a circle; bring it to the bottom and pull the whiskey up into the soda water. Do this just two times to evenly mix the drink while losing as little carbonation as possible. A lot of work for a simple two-ingredient drink, right?

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