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The Whiskey “Hai” Ball: A Japanese Favorite

The Whiskey Hai Ball. Tist on a Japanese Favorite

About this Recipe

A few years back, my husband and I were lucky enough to travel to Japan. Prior to the trip, I had done quite a bit of research on Japanese culture, cuisine, and even on how to navigate their notoriously complex rail system. One thing I was not prepared for, and was subsequently blown away by, was Japanese drinking culture.

In Tokyo, judging by the two daily rush hours, the workday seemed to stretch from 8am to 8pm. But even after such a long day at the office, businessmen and women didn’t rush home. Instead, they filled up the bars and drinking establishments to decompress over a whiskey highball.

If you’re a whiskey drinker, you’d probably agree that ordering a whiskey ‘neat’ might catch you the occasional side-eye in some drinking-appropriate situations (like at your cousin’s bridal shower). As a whiskey drinker myself, the whiskey highball has broadened my whiskey-drinking enjoyment. I drink them by the pool. I drink them on the dance floor. I drink them with a pizza and some Netflix. I drink them in a box with a fox. And, over the years, I’ve tweaked the original recipe slightly to what I am sharing with you today. My Japan-inspired, yet yankee-fied version is what I call the Whiskey Hai (“Hai” is Japanese for “yes” as in “yes, I’ll have a highball!”) Ball to include your favorite flavor of seltzer.

  • 1.5 oz Japanese Whiskey
  • 4 oz Seltzer
  • Twist of Lemon

The minimalistic ingredients in a highball really allow the elegance of a Japanese whiskey to shine through. This Kaiyo Single, 7-year whiskey embodies the delicate, floral notes characteristic of a Japanese whiskey with an element of je ne sais quoi imparted by the sea and oak in which it was aged.

Step by Step Instructions


Get a highball glass and fill it with ice

I prefer larger ice for less dilution, but not massive ice. You don’t want a nose-smashing bowling ball rolling towards your face with each sip.


Add the whiskey

The recipe calls for 1.5 oz, but adjust for taste and occasion. Perhaps you’re just coming off a 12-hour workday – you may need to stiff it up a bit. No judgment here!


Pour the Seltzer

I recommend tangerine, blackberry, or La Croix’s Limoncello which has a soft lemon flavor with notes of vanilla – delicious!


Don’t skip the lemon!

Cut a neat strip of rind, twist, and add to your glass. The oils expressed from the twist will add a beautiful aroma and flavor to your cocktail.

That’s all there is to it. Like so many things in Japanese culture, this whiskey highball is simple, elegant, beautiful… and one hell of a good time. Kanpai!