How to Make a Flawless Whisky Highball Cocktail

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Ah, the highball: Liquor and soda. 

Humble in the face of praise, uncomplicated, chilled out and perfect for a summer’s day. Until they’re not.

“When people say highball today, they’re generally referring back to a Japanese highball, which is Japanese whiskey and soda and twists of citrus,” says bar owner Masahiro Urushido on this week's Living Proof podcast.

Listen to our interview with Masahiro - and hear all about the Japanese highball - in the player below.

Masa is a bartender and co-owner behind the award-winning Katana Kitten in New York who has become renowned for his highball recipes. He began his cocktail career in his home country of Japan, where this style of drink is ubiquitous and no detail in their preparation is left un-examined.

“Attention to detail is just something you do every day - if something’s not right, you don’t serve it,” he says.

You can find Living Proof on Apple PodcastsSpotify or Player FM.

To find out about the details Masahiro pays close attention to in the Highball process, click through the below image carousel, or simply read on...

1. Keep it frosty

The temperature of your highball cocktail has to be cold. As in, just-whipped-this-glass-out-of-the-freezer cold. As in, I-even-frosted-the-whiskey-bottle cold. The bar at Katana Kitten wrangles a specialised Toki Highball Machine from Suntory and Hoshizaki to chill their whiskey and mixer to sub-zero temperatures, meaning your highball takes an ice bath before it gets to you. Brrrr.

2. Keep it crystal (clear)

The ice, that is. Masa makes sure his ice is clear, thick and clean-cut. To ensure he’s getting the best, Urushido orders his cocktail ice for use in his highball recipes from Okamoto Studio, where steps are taken to make sure the ice is ‘dead clear’. With a bit of effort, you can make clear ice at home using a technique such as 'directional freezing', which was developed by Camper English and is explained here.

3. Keep it fizzy

The reason it’s important to get your temperature and quality of ice just right? Because the cooler your drink and the cleaner your ice, the better your fizz. Carbonation is what makes a highball a highball and in order to make yours stand out, you need the highest level of carbonation you can get. The Toki Highball Machine is, again, Urushido’s secret to getting as many bubbles into the drink as possible, but fresh store-bought soda can do the job with the right amount of chill.

Whether you garnish your whiskey highball with a classic lemon peel or something a little funkier like a Japanese plum is up to you. 

It doesn’t really matter, just keep it simple.

But if you're really confident and ready to bust a move, we've included a favourite Katana Kitten recipe below. 

If you want to hear more about Urushido’s tricks for a crisp and clean whisky highball, make sure you tune into Masahiro's interview with Nicole and Marcus above.

The Bellmont Highball


  • 45ml BERTOUX Brandy
  • 22.5mlFuji Apple Sherbet
  • 7.5ml Amontillado Sherry
  • 90ml Carbonated Coconut Water

Build in a super chilled beer mug or collins glass filled with ice and top with 3 oz. carbonated coconut water. Garnish with grated nutmeg.