The Perfect Whiskey Highball Recipe

Photograph by Irwin Wong

Japanese bartenders can turn the preparation of any cocktail, even a simple whiskey highball, into a meaningful ritual. Here’s the very precise way New York bartender Frank Cisneros made whiskey highballs during the year he worked at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Tokyo.


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1. Use Nikka Coffey Grain or Hakushu 12-year-old whiskey. Place the bottle to the left of your working area, label facing out — a sign of respect for the drinker.

2. Using tongs, place four cubes of clear ice into a highball glass.

3. Gently and silently stir ice to chill the glass.

4. Hold back cubes with bar spoon and pour out water from melted ice.

5. Measure 2 oz whiskey into a jigger; pour from behind the glass over the ice.

6. Fill the remainder of the glass with the highest quality soda water. (Look for low mineral content and no added sodium.)

7. Stir 5 to 7 times, as quietly as possible. Serve without a garnish or straw.

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