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The Subtle Art of the Suntory Toki Highball

The timeless classic cocktail that was perfected in Japan.

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For decades, people have been enjoying the refreshing, balanced, and perfectly carbonated flavor of a whisky highball. The crisp soda water, mixed with flavorful whisky, and often garnished with a twist of lemon or grapefruit peel, is a classic way to serve and enjoy the smoky liquor.

Katsuya Fukushima, restaurant owner and chef, described the complexity of the highball as something hidden by the overt simplicity of the drink. “There are just so many variables going on in this very simple drink that it’s very mind-boggling,” he says. “Because the whisky itself has so many layers, all the aromas come up to the surface when you add water to alcohol.” When the soda is added to the mix, it adds effervescence, which makes it very refreshing and easy to drink, he explained.

And nowhere has perfected the art of the highball quite like Japan, where it’s been an integral part of the drinking culture for ages. In 1923, Shinjiro Torii dreamt of creating a Japanese whisky that subtle, refined, yet complex, and hand-crafted by artisans. This is when the first Suntory whisky distillery was born in Yamazaki. By the 1950s, it was being served in bars across Japan — most notably in the form of a highball. The seemingly simple cocktail requires sharp attention to detail and a true understanding of flavor pairings. Every element — the quality of the spirit, the caliber of the ice, the soda’s carbonation — is carefully considered. A true highball allows the nuance of the whisky to shine while lightening it up as an easy-drinking, food-friendly cocktail. And with this art in mind, Suntory Toki has created a high-tech highball machine, pouring out ice-cold, super-carbonated drinks right on tap.

“The Toki highball is so versatile, it almost makes the job of the chef a little easier because it pairs so well,” he says. “You can’t drink straight whisky when you’re having a meal, but the carbonation [of the highball] helps cleanse your palate.” Because of that balance, you get the smokiness and the sweetness all without it being too overwhelming, he explains.

While a highball can be made with any sort of whisky, Suntory’s Toki whisky is a natural choice. Its crisp and harmonious blend of malt and grain whiskies provides a mellow, subtly sweet and spicy taste with a hint of vanilla oak, white pepper, and ginger. When mixed with chilled soda water and served over ice, you’re left with a timeless drink.


Beyond the whisky, ice, and soda water of a highball

If you’re itching to try your hand at making the classic cocktail yourself, let this recipe from Suntory Whisky guide you.

A stream of Suntory Whisky’s Toki spirit pours out of the bottle.
A silver bar spoon hits a chunk of ice, causing ice bits to spray out.
A bartender pours a shot of Suntory Whisky’s Toki spirit into a bronze measuring jigger.
A completed Toki highball, with a lemon peel as a garnish, sits on a wooden coaster on a wooden bar top.

Ingredients:

3-4 ice cubes

2 parts Suntory Whisky Toki

Cold premium soda water

Lemon or grapefruit twist

Directions:

Step 1: Fill a highball glass with ice and let chill.

Step 2: Add Toki whisky over the ice.

Step 3: Stir to chill the whisky and glass.

Step 4: Top with more ice, back to the brim.

Step 5: Slowly pour chilled soda water down the side of the glass to avoid breaking the bubbles (you’ll want the ratio to be 3 parts soda water to 1 part whisky).

Step 6: Give a gentle stir, from the bottom of the drink to the top, with a long bar spoon. A tip: be sure not to over-stir the drink—you don’t want it to lose its fizz.

Step 7: Garnish with a twist of citrus, and enjoy.


Enjoy Responsibly. Suntory Whisky Toki® Japanese Whisky, 43% Alc./Vol., ©2021 Beam Suntory Import Co., Chicago, IL.

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