One of the first whisky cocktails to go viral is also one of the easiest drinks to make: the Highball.
The delicious mix of blended Scotch whisky and club soda was a favorite in the U.K. in the late 1800s before it crossed the Atlantic and became a hit in the U.S. By the 1950s, the Highball could easily be found in bars around the world and whisky brands were riding a wave of popularity.
But the end of the twentieth century belonged to vodka and the Highball was rapidly replaced by the Grey Hound, the Cosmo and the Cape Codder on trendy bar menus.
Fortunately, Japanese bartenders and drinkers didn’t give up on whisky or Highballs. In fact, they took the historic cocktail to new heights by figuring out the ideal ratio of carbonated water to whisky, the right ice to use and the club soda brands with the perfect level of carbonation. Some bars even added atomized essences and flavorful botanicals to the traditional recipe. Thanks to this research and a global interest in Japanese bartending culture, the Highball has suddenly been given a second act and is once again showing up on bar menus around the world.
In New York, Masa Urushido is one of the talented bartenders who has helped put the Highball back on the mixology map. He’s come up with some wildly creative takes on the drink, including a recent version calling for Dewar’s Japanese Smooth Blended Scotch Whisky, club soda and slices of nashi pear.
His concoction perfectly encapsulates the history of the Highball, since at the turn of the century Dewar’s helped popularize the cocktail in America. Urushido also chose to use a special bottling of Dewar’s, which was finished in a cask made from the incredibly rare and expensive Japanese mizunara oak. The barrel adds a subtle note of sandalwood to the Scotch, which in turn adds a bit of complexity to this age-old drink.