BOOZE, Cocktails, Ronin, Sunday's Grocery, Yardbird • Dec 01, 2015
Although Japan’s drinking culture has long been synonymous with beer and sake, the rising reputation of Japanese Whisky has caused a paradigm shift. Besides the increased demand for Japanese Whisky in the global market, its recent popularity was also due to the re-introduction of highball culture by Suntory in 2009. Suntory’s highball campaign promoted them as the drink of choice, with TV commercials and promo materials that elevated the simple combination of Whisky + soda to something more than just that. Japanese Whisky, once reserved for your grandfather’s nightcap, became cool again, thanks to the addition of soda, ice, and sometimes citrus.
A Japanese highball (ハイボール) refers exclusively to Whisky and soda water (ice not required). They’re light, refreshing, and the ideal drink to pair with any type of food (as opposed to beer, which simultaneously fills your stomach).
The resurgence of highballs was not only visible in Japanese bars and restaurants. In 2009, Suntory decided to distribute highballs in cans in order to regain a younger clientele. Highball cans can be found in vending machines and convenience stores across Japan, with the most recognizable can being the silver Suntory Kakuhi, made with Suntory Kakubin Yellow. Suntory’s recent acquisition of Jim Beam has also brought about their new Jim Beam grapefruit flavored highball, and izakayas throughout Japan also have highballs on draught.