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The History of the Highball: The Journey from Japan to the United States

What do you get when you combine one part whisky, 3-4 parts soda water, and the perfect twist of citrus? Combine these ingredients and you have the whisky highball: one of the iconic symbols of Japanese drinking culture.

In Japan, first rising to popularity in the 1950s, the whisky highball has risen and fallen through multiple periods of admiration. Throughout the '60s and '70s, this simple, refreshing, and classic combination of whisky and soda was the drink of choice among Japanese businessmen, driven by the opening of Torys bars following World War II.

Over time, highballs became less popular in Japan, as other drink options like shochu, beer, gin, and vodka popped up around the country.

But in the mid-2000s, Suntory helped to revive highball culture in Japan by redefining the quality of the highball and bringing it to new territories. By introducing a highball made with Toki, one of the House of Suntory's signature whiskies, to the American audience, a new generation of highball-lovers was born.

How is the perfect highball made? Bartenders (or you at home!) start by chilling a tall glass - the colder the glass, the better, to maximize the soda water's carbonation. After the glass has been chilled, large pieces of high-density ice are added and the whisky is poured in. Once the whisky has been added, soda water is carefully poured between the glass and ice and a bar spoon is used to gently stir the mixture, allowing the whisky and soda to combine. A dash of citrus is added and the final result is a classic cocktail, equally as refreshing as it is delicious.

One of the ways we ensure that our highball is always perfectly made is through our signature highball machine. Introduced to the American market in the last few years, the highball machine has quickly become a favorite of whisky drinkers and is now available at dozens of locations across the US. Our unique highball machine is calibrated to dispense the perfect ratio of mixed whisky and carbonated water as it dispenses into a chilled glass, making each highball as precisely crafted as the next.

2.pngFrom the 1950s in Japan to present day in the US, the whisky highball has served up the ideal combination of soda and whisky, creating a unique and distinct flavor every time.