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.
When making or consuming cocktails, an emphasis is usually placed on the spirit, the mixer, or even the garnish. Just as crucial but often overlooked is the ice that's used. In addition to affecting the temperature of a beverage, ice (in its various forms) can have a significant impact on taste, texture, and aroma. No one wants to sip on a watered down drink, so the type of ice used in different cocktails is very important.Ice cubes are commonly used in cocktails since they can fully submerge in the liquid and when stacked in a glass, don't melt too quickly (since cold air is trapped in the glass). Cubed ice can also help to subtly dilute a drink when shaken or stirred, which in turn affects the strength and taste of the concoction. Stronger cocktails like juleps, mojitos, and mules call for crushed ice as this type will alter the texture of the cocktail. Crushed ice allows for faster dilution, which is probably why these drinks go down so easily.Ice balls and ice rocks, though they serve aesthetically different purposes, are both used to chill drinks at a more gradual rate. Compared to their cubed counterparts, ice balls and rocks have a much larger surface area and, therefore, melt much slower. And because water can influence the taste and aromatics of a drink, ice balls and rocks are ideal for drinking spirits like whisky, tequila, and fernet. When the temperatures of these spirits are lowered, their aromatics become more restrained these usually "harsh" libations become much more palatable.In Japanese bar culture, ice is an extremely important component of cocktail building. In addition to the ritual of ice ball carving, their bar culture puts an emphasis on quality ice because in Japanese history, powerful people always had control over storing ice. Ice was made during the winter using water from the mountains, slowly frozen and stored in caves. Ice wasn't available to the masses and during the summer, it was cut and brought to the city where the emperor resided. Stay icy with the Sunday's Rockfish Highball made with frozen Sunday's whisky. Read more here.
2016 marks the 93rd year of Whisky making in Japan and today, global appreciation for Japanese Whisky is at an all-time high. The demand for both rare and mainstream bottles has exploded, but there's still so much we don't know about these beloved drams. In this episode of Faber Good Times, Elliot breaks down two of his favorites - Suntory's Hakushu Heavily Peated Single Malt and Nikka's Yoichi 10 Year Single Malt - and shares the many reasons why these bottles deserve love and attention. Love whisky? Check out the RONIN Recipe for a whisky highball here.
The Cocoa Nib Old Fashioned is made with Yardbird's cocoa nib shochu, dark rum, and a hand-carved ice rock. The flavor profile of this drink is reminiscent of mint chocolate.
50 ml Yardbird Cocoa Nib Shochu
2 Dashes Chocolate Bitters
2 Mint Leaves
1 Ice Rock
METHOD:1. Combine Yardbird cocoa nib shochu, dark rum, and chocolate bitters into a mixing glass with ice2. Stir with a bar spoon until the glass is chilled3. Strain over an ice rock into a tumbler (RONIN uses Toyo-Sasaki tumblers)4. Garnish with mint leaves Want a more classic nightcap? Check out the recipe for RONIN's signature drink here.
Shochu - Shochu is a Japanese spirit brewed and distilled from starches such as rice, sesame, sweet potato, and more.The Sunday's Coffee Shochu uses Sengetsu rice shochu steeped with Beyond Coffee Roasters coffee beans and Japanese rock sugar.
60 ml Sunday's Grocery Coffee Shochu
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
It's been a great time for cocktail lovers with June 6-12 being National Negroni week! And while we're known for our love of sake and Japanese Whisky, we definitely have a soft spot for this classic Italian cocktail.The Negroni is one of the few cocktails that has a traceable history back to the early 20th century. It is said that a bartender in Florence, Italy created the drink when he was asked to make a stronger twist on the Americano (a mix of Campari, sweet Vermouth, and club soda). The customer, Count Camillo Negroni, had a fondness for strong liquor concoctions and thus the Negroni cocktail was born.The traditional Negroni recipe calls for equal parts gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth, but RONIN's version, the Django, is slightly different. The Django is made with equal parts gin, Mancino Vermouth, and Aperol instead of Campari. Aperol is used because of its subtle bitter notes and fruit character, which balances well with Mancino Rosso Vermouth. Its spice and orange flavors also make the Django a softer and more fragrant cocktail compared to a classic Negroni. To compliment the Aperol and Vermouth, we use Fords Gin, which is slightly sweeter, not too juniper-heavy, and displays floral and aromatic layers.
Corey Lee's latest project, In Situ, is one of the summer's most anticipated restaurant openings, which is sure to live up to the hype as Lee's reputation precedes him. Situated on the ground floor of the newly renovated San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, In Situ's' unique menu features a collection of dishes from over 80 chefs from around the world, recreated by Lee. In Situ offers an engaging cultural and educational experience, rather than traditional dining, and allows patrons to try memorable food that isn't easily accessible otherwise. While the dishes are not originally created by Lee, the concept aims to 'keep [the chef's] work alive so that more people can enjoy and experience it'.The restaurant is divided into two sections - one area has traditional seating and a sit down menu of around 15 dishes while the other area is more casual and allows for communal dining. In Situ's' opening hours are from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. with an extended opening time until 9:00 p.m. during the first few weeks. Reservations will be accepted for parties of 8 or less through their website, beginning June 11th.Want to know more about what's being served at In Situ? Check out the dish that Corey Lee learned to make from Chef Matt at RONIN here.Images Courtesy: Liz Hafalia, The SF Chronicle
As we made our way through Okinawa, we were given the opportunity to learn about the local food and beverage culture - not only by drinking and eating, but by visiting factories, awamori distilleries, sake and beer breweries, and local farms and markets throughout the prefecture. Our experiences visiting the food and beverage producers - the people who are directly connected to their product and passionate about what the are creating - was most inspiring to us.Everyone from the co-owner of the Hiroshiya tofu factory to the 2nd generation owner of Taikoku Shuzo (the only Sake brewery in Okinawa) to the Chefs who prepared our meals each day - it was meeting these people and speaking to them about their craft that taught us the most about Okinawan culture and why it's so special and unique. And on the last day, we were able to fully understand why Okinawa is referred to as the 'Hawaii of Asia' with a quick trip to the beach before heading to the airport.Check out Part One of the Okinawa Experience here.Photos shot on 120mm film by Fung
Meet Gail Lanorias, a bartender at RONIN and previously Yardbird. She can hold a conversation, make 10 burros and still remember to drop some sake shots at your table. It's that kind of persevering, focused attitude that ignores our jokes about her job as a mixologist. She claims that she's just a bartender, but have one of her drinks and you'll know she's more than that. Not to mention she's also just passed her sommelier certification, so if you prefer your alcohol of the grape variety, she can also give you a suggestion. Read her Q&A below and grab a cocktail next time you're at RONIN.
5th February, 2014 at Yardbird
Where are you from?
Hong Kong; I grew up here. My family is from Cebu and for some random reason, I was born in Las Vegas.
How long have you lived in Hong Kong?
What's your favorite thing to eat at Yardbird/RŌNIN?
Liver Mousse at Yardbird. Udon, Shiso, Mentaiko at RONIN
If you could only have one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Linguine alle vongole.
What's your perfect pizza?
Tomato sauce, chillies, soppressata, mozzarella and a generous helping of pitted black olives.
Do you have a sweet tooth or a savory tooth?
Whisky, Sake, or beer?
Wine. But since you asked, Whisky it is.
What was the last picture you took with your phone?
Matt Abergel and Erik Idos cooking udon at 3am in the morning.
What's the last song you listened to?
In A Sentimental Mood by Duke Ellington and John Coltrane.
What's your pet-peeve?
Shopkeepers following me around while I shop and people telling me I should smile more.
Who has influenced you the most in your life?
Hermione Granger and The Cat in the Hat.
Shark diving, bungee jumping, or skydiving?
Shark diving. I think I’d rather get eaten by a shark than die from falling to the ground.
Which would be harder for you to give up: coffee or alcohol?
What is your favorite after work drink?
Ideally, a glass of wine. Preferably Champagne, but more often than not I will end up with a glass of tequila soda in my hand.
What's your favorite thing to do on a Sunday afternoon when you don't have to work?
Read a book.
What question do you hate to answer?
Is this your real job?
Why do you like working at Yardbird/RŌNIN?
I get to work on a craft that I love every single day and share it with other people.
Can't get enough of our staff? Check out our interview with Dason Ying aka Michael Dason here.
Matéhi - a highball cocktail made with Yerba Maté tea. RŌNIN uses Just Maté, a Japanese sparkling Yerba Maté tea brand that hails from Tokyo. It's made with South American Yerba Maté, lemon and honey.
-50 ml Akashi NAS Blended whisky
-1 bottle of Just Maté
-1 orange peel
- Pour 50 ml whisky into glass (Ronin uses Ishizuka glasses)
- Fill glass with ice
- Top up with Just Maté
- Gently lift the spirits with a bar spoon
- Garnish with an orange twist
Santa Cruise - this cocktail is similar to a Manhattan in that it contains only alcohol, but uses mezcal and umeshu instead of Whisky and vermouth.The Santa Cruise is named after the nephew of RONIN's Chef/Owner (Matt Abergel) who was born the same month that this cocktail was created.
Muddle cucumber slices in a mixing glass
Add mezcal, umeshu, angostura bitters, and lemon peel into the glass (squeeze the peel to release the oils)
Add ice and stir for about 45 seconds until chilled
Double strain into lowball glass
Garnish with a whole ume
Last weekend, the restaurant festival Taste, stopped by for their first time in Asia. The festival has taken place in London, Paris and Sydney and brings together top chefs and restaurants all to be enjoyed in one place.Chefs and restaurants came together with their signature dishes and we had a great time with our neighboring tents of Amber, Chino, Serge et le Phoque, Cafe Gray Deluxe, Aberdeen Street Social and even an appearance of Duck and Waffle from London.
The Sunday's Grocery tent was a sake bar, complete with six unique styles of sake including sake on tap and warm sake. Our Beverage Director Elliot Faber poured sake and knowledge in his master classes, teaching the history of the sake breweries present. Miki San, the producer of Sunday's sake, entertained with the key keg of fresh, unpasteurized sake.
Chef Matt manned the Yardbird tent, cooking up RONIN's flower crab, uni, mitsuba and uni, panko, nori. Yardbird classics like the sweet corn tempura, Korean fried cauliflower and katsu sando poured out of the pass.It was a cold and foggy weekend but shout out to all our customers who came by to eat and drink with us. Taste was one for the books.
The Sake Sommelier Association has initiated two new Masters sake qualifications - the Master Sake Sommelier (MSS) to be completed in two years and Master of Sake (MOS) to be completed in three. The courses are the first of its kind - an in-depth sake education outside of Japan.The Masters sake programs will be taught in London with opportunities to gain experience in sake service and retail sales. The MOS course has an additional study tour in Japan where students work in a sake brewery and learn the origins of sake through agriculture.To be a Master Sake Sommelier, candidates will work two months at a Japanese restaurant in London, one month working at a fine wine and sake shop alongside classes (MSS qualifications cost £18,000).The three-year Master of Sake program (£30,000) includes working one month at a Japanese restaurant in London, one month at a fine wine and sake shop, one month at a sake brewery in Japan, and one more month in Japan learning about harvesting and cultivating rice for sake production.In order to qualify for the two programs, candidates must obtain the Sake Sommelier Association's Certified Sake Sommelier and Advance Sake Sommelier courses. Source: the Drinks Business
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
Peat - compressed, decayed vegetable matter cut from peat bogs and used as fuel. The pungent smoke it gives off when burnt is used in the malting of barley intended for certain Scottish malt whiskies.Pineapple - a large juicy tropical fruit consisting of aromatic edible yellow flesh surrounded by a tough segmented skin and topped with a tuft of stiff leaves.The P&P at RONIN is the perfect balance of smokiness and sweetness - made with freshly squeezed pineapple juice and Hakushu 12 Year Whisky.
30 ml Hakushu 12 Year Whisky
30 ml Pineapple Juice
10 ml Drambuie
10 ml Lime
Sugar Syrup To Taste
- Combine all ingredients into a shaker
- Add ice into the shaker
- Shake vigorously for 15 seconds
- Double strain into a glass (RONIN uses Ishizuka tumblers)
- Stir in sugar syrup to taste