By Neyah White
Photos by Travis LoDolce
Well, there is no drink more quintessentially ‘Japanese’ right now than the highball. From crowded, stand-up after-work bars in Tokyo to elegant and sedate members-bars in Kyoto, the simple (but exact!) mix of whisky and water, has become the national drink of choice. There are a few factors involved with this, but the most important line of reasoning is that whisky is cool, whisky highballs go with food, and Japan has a properly mature culture that knows food and drink best enjoyed together.
The Highball Story
A 19th Century, New York barman named Patrick Gavin Duffy talked about highballs as a Scottish thing. It goes that a Scotsman was prone to asking for cut whisky drinks by ordering it in a tall glass. The thing is, they could use the words ‘cup’, ‘glass’ and ‘bowl’ interchangeably (something to do with the residual celtic vocabulary) and the word ‘high’ for the word ‘tall’. So where we would ask for a ‘tall glass’, the Scottish patron of the past would ask for a ‘high bowl’. Throw in a nice healthy highland brogue and to American ears it becomes a ‘high ball’.
The highball stuck with us through Prohibition and actually faired pretty well with the influx of bootlegged Canadian whisky and soda water made way for ginger ale. As style of drink it was popular well through the 50’s and 60’s. It was the end of the 60’s, beginning of the 70’s where it faltered, along with most of we now lump together as classic cocktails.
Now that we have re-embraced the Manhattan, the Martini and the Flip, maybe it is time to rediscover the simple understated highball.
*Neyah White is the Brand Ambassador for Yamazaki Whisky.