Ah, spring. The sun is shining, the drinks are calling, and it's the perfect time to try something new - whether that's a new cocktail, highball, or bottle of sake! The best beverages for this season are light, bright, and refreshing. And since you’ve been willing the seasons to change, they should also feel appropriately strong. Read below to check out our favorite springtime sips:Highball: Danryu DanballIt's hard to find a highball that's more refreshing than the Danryu Danball. Made with awamori instead of the traditional Japanese Whisky, this is the highball you'll get when you're in Okinawa. The Danball is sour, savory, simple, and did we mention refreshing?!Ingredients:50 ml Kamimura Danryu Awamori1/2 Lime, Freshly SqueezedWilkinson Soda WaterLime Wedge for GarnishMethod:1. Pour the awamori and lime juice into a collins glass2. Fill the glass with ice3. Top up with soda water4. Stir with a bar spoon, lifting as you stir5. Garnish with lime wedgeCocktail: Last WordThe Last Word may be a classic cocktail but it's also quite modern in its own right. It was invented before Prohibition but it's beloved by today's cocktail makers and cocktail enthusiasts alike. The mix of gin, maraschino liqueur, green Chartreuse, and lime gives the Last Word a spring-like green hue and despite the fact that it's strong, this cocktail is very easy drinking.Ingredients:25 ml Fords Gin25 ml Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice25 ml Luxardo Maraschino25 ml Green ChartreuseMethod:1. Combine gin, lime juice, maraschino, and green Chartreuse into a cocktail shaker2. Hard shake3. Double strain into a cocktail glassSake: Ohmine Junmai Daiginjo Nama AND Ohmine Junmai Ginjo MNGOhmine Junmai Daiginjo NamaThis unpasteurized (nama) sake is seasonal, fresh, and produced using the shizuku method from Ohmine Shuzo. A clean and pure junmai daiginjo, this sake has roundness and deep aromas of tangerine and orange blossoms, plus a unique nutty flavor that comes from it being "nama."Ohmine Junmai Ginjo MNGThis sake also comes from Ohmine Shuzo. With soft aromatics of white peaches and orange blossoms, this junmai ginjo takes a step back from the clean and delicate nature of the daiginjo and reveals a more full bodied and robust expression, which comes from it being "muroka nama genshu." Produced using the shizuku method, it retains that purity and elegance of the Ohmine line but incorporates more backbone and character.
The coolest crew from Kyoto touched down in Hong Kong for a special pop up at Yardbird - for two nights, Sour Kyoto took over the bar with their signature fresh fruit shochu highballs. The colorful menu included Chu Hi's mixed with premium strawberries, kiwi, pomegranate, passionfruit, mixed berries, and dragon fruit. To maintain the integrity and flavors of the Sour Chu Hi, the team even brought over their own kegs, filled with a molasses-based shochu and soda water. Check out the photos below to see what you may have missed and make sure give Suzuki san and the team a shout the next time you're in Kyoto!
On Wednesday, June 20th and Thursday, June 21st, Yardbird will be hosting the incredible team from Sour bar in Kyoto, Japan for a special 2-day pop-up!Sour is a small standing bar located in Shinkyogoku, which is part of Kyoto’s downtown shopping area. Behind their bar is a beautiful display of fresh fruit that's used to make their signature shochu highballs (Chu Hi's). Every type of Chu Hi on their menu is made using fresh fruit and herbs, including unusual combinations such as lemon mint, banana sudachi, kumquat apple, and more! Sour also holds exhibitions and music events inside the standing bar space.During both evenings, dinner service at Yardbird will run as usual and the food menu will remain the same. The drinks menu, on the other hand, will feature a special supplement from Sour, including a variety of unique Chu Hi’s made with rice shochu and fresh fruit from both Hong Kong and Japan. Both pop-up events are open to the public – no RSVP is required! The Sour team will be behind the Yardbird bar from 6:00 pm to Midnight both nights creating their delicious signature drinks.Check out the video below to find out what Sour is all about!Sour Kyoto from Alan Algee on Vimeo.
The Yagi Hi is the latest addition to Yardbird’s highball menu. It was created to showcase Yagi’s unique whisky umeshu that’s made from Yagi’s own cultivated ume fruit and blended with Japanese whisky. This highball is the perfect combination of salinity (from the ume salt rim), robustness (from the whisky), and sweet acidity (from the umeshu). Try it at Yardbird while it's still on the menu!
50 ml Yagi Whisky Umeshu
190 ml bottle of Wilkinson Soda Water
Ume Salt (for rim)
- Rim highball glass with ume salt
- Add Yagi Whisky Umeshu into glass
- Fill glass with ice
- Top up with soda water
- Lift with bar spoon
After a long day, there's nothing more comforting than a simple drink that satisfies. And that's exactly why highballs are so perfect - they're a breeze to make, easy to drink, and always hit the spot. The Hunter Hi is a highball made with Fernet Hunter, a bitter produced in Austria with herbal characters from arnica, orris root, and lavender.
60 ml Fernet Hunter
60 ml Tansan Soda Water
2 Sprigs of Mint
- Pour Fernet Hunter into a highball glass over an ice rock
- Top up with Tansan soda water
- Lift with a bar spoon
- Garnish with mint
The Danball is made with Danryu awamori, a distilled spirit exclusive to Okinawa. Light and refreshing with a hint of citrus, this highball is an easy drinking and delicious gateway into the world of awamori.
60 ml Danryu Awamori
190 ml Wilkinson Soda Water
Half of a Lime
1 Lime peel
- Pour 60 ml Danryu awamori into a Tom Collins glass
- Juice half of a lime into the glass
- Add an ice rock and top up with soda water
- Squeeze lime peel to release essential oils and drop into the glass
While some artisanal canned cocktails have succeeded in the U.S. market, the Western world still turns its nose up to pre-mixed cocktails. Therefore, it may be surprising that canned whiskey highballs have been trending in Japan for many years, especially for whisky purists who wouldn’t dare dilute this spirit with soda water and ice, let alone drink it from a can! So why does a country that produces some of the most coveted whisky in the world love canned highballs just as much? In this post, we explore how canned whisky highballs came into existence and why they continue to be a staple in Japan today.The production of whisky in Japan began before the turn of the century, but the first commercial production was in 1924 when Yamazaki, the country's first distillery, was opened by Shinjiro Torii (the founder of Suntory). Around the same time, foreigners in Japan were frequently requesting whisky and soda at bars and bottled versions of this drink started to appear on the market. In the 1950’s, Shinjiro Torii established the chain of “Tory’s Bars” that specialized in bottled highballs. Highballs experienced a post-war golden age in Japan.During the 1980s, these whisky highballs fell out of fashion and whisky sales throughout Japan started to decline. The new generation found whisky to be intimidating and not particularly food-friendly, plus they just couldn’t help but think of it as an old man’s tipple. While Japanese whisky exports started to increase after Nikka's 10-year Yoichi single malt won "Best of the Best" at Whisky Magazine's awards in 2001, it continued to experience a 26-year long slump in the domestic market. By 2008, Suntory was the second largest beverage company in Japan, yet the very beverage it built its foundation on was no longer popular.Suntory came up with an idea to revive domesticTo help revive domestic whisky sales and attract younger consumers, Suntory reintroduced the bottled whisky highball. Of course, this was not a new invention, but they marketed it to a new audience as an easy-drinking, refreshing beverage. And perhaps thanks to their TV commercial campaign featuring starlet Koyuki, the campaign was a success. The number of establishments in Japan that began servings their bottled highballs rocketed. Suntory also opened a series of dedicated highball bars and premixed whisky highballs became available on tap. In 2009, Suntory came up with another great idea to attract a younger clientele and that was, of course, the canned highball.Why did the canned highball work? Because with it, whisky became approachable again. When diluted, the proof is lower and the spirit becomes less intense; it’s just as easy to pair with food as it is to drink on its own, straight out of the can. Canned whisky highballs quickly became available in convenience stores and vending machines all over the country, so they were accessible drinks that could easily substitute for beer - Japan’s long-time preferred beverage. They also became an alternative to the chuhai, a canned shochu highball that had been popular for many years in Japan and was possibly what paved the way for canned whisky highballs. Even non-Japanese whisky highballs started to appear in can form, including Jack Daniel’s No. 7 and Jim Beam. Another important factor when explaining the initial (and current) popularity of canned whisky highballs is the price as they fall into a lower tax category and can be even cheaper than beer in Japan.Not all whisky highballs are cheap, of course. With a cocktail culture focused on precision and mastery, the same care can easily go into highballs. That’s why there are many dedicated highball bars throughout Japan where bartenders are very methodical about using the right ice and correct proportions. They even stir the concoction a specific number of times to create the perfect highball. Likewise, not all canned highballs are cheap. Nikka’s Pure Malt Taketsuru 12 Year canned highball uses a very high-quality whisky and costs significantly more than other canned whisky highballs. Nonetheless, there is a duality to Japanese whisky. On the one hand, cheap highballs are wildly popular in Japan. On the other hand, Japanese whisky is a sought after luxury product internationally and Suntory has been careful to maintain its premium image in the global market by limiting exports of its cheaper whiskies and canned highballs.Suntory’s original highball marketing campaign was triumphant - it ignited the Japanese highball trend and paved the way for it to be available on-the-go all over Japan. But the intention of this campaign was never about the highball itself. Rather, it was meant to serve as a gateway to Japanese whisky and to spark the youth’s interest in historic distilleries like Yamazaki and Hakushu. Time will tell if Japan has truly reversed its domestic whisky sales in the long-run, but one thing is for sure: canned highballs are here to stay and cheers to that!
Our staff is as diverse and unique as they come, and their music preferences are no different. In A Drink and a Playlist, we explore a more intimate side of our team - what they're currently listening to and their drink of choice when unwinding after service. To kick off this series and the coming the weekend, we asked our very own whisky and hip hop enthusiast, Dason Ying, for his top music picks and go to libation. Dason, the Training Manager at Yardbird, is known for having a sizeable collection of Japanese whisky. He's also notorious for breaking out into dance in the middle of set up and during closing. Dason's playlist reflects his energetic, sometimes frenetic, nature with the perfect amount of R&B classics from LL Cool J and R. Kelly and new bangers from Kendrick Lamar and Bruno Mars. Like his favorite drink, the Kaku Highball, this selection of songs is easy to listen to, uplifting, and perfect for the summer.[embed]https://open.spotify.com/user/12123701427/playlist/35A0MX7M78RW6p3LCFa7dh[/embed]
The weather is warm, junk season has arrived, and it's time to celebrate the #1 guy in your life - your dad. You've probably put your old man through a lot over the years, so don't you think he deserves something special? With Father’s Day coming up, we've created the ultimate gift guide that will appease even the pickiest of padres, especially those who like a drink (or two) after a long day. For the men who taught us everything we need to know about life, here's a list of everything they need to have to enjoy it:Kama Asa Charcoal GrillYou may think it's cliche to give your dad a grill for Father's Day, but if it's a Kama Asa charcoal grill made in Japan, you'll definitely win brownie points. This grill is portable, versatile, and can be used outside or indoors at home - perfect for BBQ season.Kaku HighballsThere’s nothing better than a whisky soda any time of year, but you’ll be sure to impress your pops when you give him a case of expertly crafted canned whisky highballs, made with Suntory Kakubin Yellow + soda water.Yukiwa Gold Plated Bar SetFor the dad who likes to impress behind the bar, this is the gift that keeps on giving. Imported from Japan, this bar set not only looks great on display, it includes all of the essentials required for your dad to make the perfect cocktail.Fernet HunterFernet Hunter is perfect for the dad who appreciates handcrafted, artisanal spirits. A fresh take on a classic Italian bitter, this delicious and aromatic spirit can be enjoyed in many ways, but it’s best consumed chilled – with soda, tea, or in cocktails.Ichiro's Malt Wine Wood ReserveYou can never go wrong with giving someone a bottle of Japanese Whisky for any holiday, let alone Fathers Day. With that in mind, Ichiro's Malt Wine Wood Reserve is a great choice. A "Pure Malt" from the Ichiro's series, this bottle contains whisky from the now closed Hanyu distillery. It's matured, vatted, and bottled at the Chichibu distillery and this edition was given a finishing period in French wine casks.Nose: chocolate orange, black licorice, creamy maltPalate: red berry sweetness, oily walnut, white pepperFinish: lingering sherried spices with a little hint of chocolateIchiro's Malt Double DistilleriesAnother great choice from the Ichiro’s Malt range, this bottle is a vatting of whisky from both the Hanyu and Chichibu distilleries. This whisky was matured in Japanese oak and vatted and bottled at Chichibu in 2010.Nose: woody, sweet, floral, pears and green applesPalate: sweet spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, licorice) and a slight soapiness to the mouth feelFinish: sweet woodiness, florals, licorice, and a hint of mint ice cream
Like Japan, we're obsessed with highballs. And while a highball generally refers to a base spirit and a mixer served over ice in a tall glass, highballs in Japan almost exclusively refer to whisky sodas. When made properly, a highball is an extremely satisfying beverage that's crisp, refreshing, and pairs well with everything. And although this drink seems simple at a glance, there are several important aspects that contribute to a good highball.WhiskyAlthough you would never use a mature whisky to make a highball, that doesn't mean that the whisky you choose should be of poor quality. Blended whiskies, which can take between 3-10 years to make, are ideal for highballs because they're lighter, more subtle, less nuanced, and combine well with soda water. Multigrain whiskies, like Sunday's Whisky, are softer, sweeter, and have a more pronounced presence of ethanol. Adding soda water to this particular whisky is perfect because it brings the ethanol down, making the whisky easier to enjoy.IceA good highball should always be cold. And like with most cocktails, ice is a very important component of a good highball. Although some highball styles like the Rockfish don't require any ice inside of the glass, ice cubes and ice rocks are both used to create this drink. Ice should be made from alkaline water compressed into layers to ensure clear cubes and rocks. Glasses with stacked cubes allow the entire beverage to remain cold and ice rocks keep the highball from diluting too quickly.GlasswareThe glassware used to serve a highball is just an important as the contents inside. A highball glass can normally hold 250-375 ml and while the general style of the glass is consistent throughout most bars, the thickness of the glass is just as crucial. Thin glasses are the key to good highballs because they are more tactile. The thinner the glass, the more liquid hits the palate, which provides a heightened sensory experience.Soda WaterBecause most highballs use blended whiskies, soda water is important because it brings balance. Soda can help mask the "lesser" qualities of a whisky as well as and bring out the best, most dynamic flavors. In Japan, Wilkinson 'Tansan' soda water is the Suntory gold standard for highballs. This water comes from a source in Honshu near Kobe. It is a hard mineral soda water with good bubbles; these delicate bubbles bring texture to a highball and help provide a refreshing fizz after each sip.GarnishHighballs don't necessarily need garnishes as the crisp soda water combined with delicious whisky is an experience that can be enjoyed as is. However, in some cases, a light garnish can help bring out different flavors in a whisky and a highball as a whole. Common highball garnishes include a lemon peel, citrus zest, mint, and shiso leaf.
Whisky highballs always hit the spot - they're clean, refreshing, light, and perfect for any occasion. But beyond the whisky and soda that make up a highball, there are many special details that may not be so apparent.At the hidden Apollo Bar in Tokyo, owner Hidenori Komatsu truly represents craftsmanship and commitment for all the drinks that are served. From the thin glassware to the fanned hand-carved ice blocks, the seemingly simple highball is meticulously prepared.Komatsu-san worked for Suntory for several decades before retiring to open Apollo. His experience with Japanese whisky is extensive, evident through his collection of rare Suntory bottles, but also through his technique as he mindfully makes each drink. Read and experience the entire story about Komatsu-san's highball at Apollo Bar at MAEKAN.com here.
Hi Nikka - a light, fruit forward and floral whisky.
Ronin's Nikka highball uses a slightly burnt lime peel to bring out a charred character to the malty undertones of the whisky. The oils released from the lime peel also give subtle body to the highball.
50 ml Hi Nikka Whisky
1 lime peel
190 ml bottle Wilkinson Soda Water
1. Pour 50 ml Hi Nikka whisky into a collins glass (RONIN uses Ishizuka tumblers)
2. Fill glass with ice
3. Top up with soda water
4. Garnish with a slightly burnt lime twist
Rockfish - a bar located in Ginza, Japan that's known for their highballs (more than 90% of their orders are for this Whisky soda cocktail), including their signature "kaku" mixture served without ice in a glass straight from the freezer.
RONIN has its own spin on the Rockfish highball using Kakubin Premium Whisky and a frozen Ishizuka glass.
50 ml Frozen Kakubin Premium Whisky
1 Lemon Peel
190 ml Bottle Wilkinson Soda Water
1. Pour 50 ml frozen Kakubin premium into a frozen collins glass (RONIN uses Ishizuka tumblers)
2. Twist one lemon peel to release oils and drop inside
3. Empty the contents of 1 bottle Wilkinson Soda Water into the glass
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.