A decanter and glass of amber-colored whiskey, with ice, set against a backdrop of pink cherry blossoms and a Japanese shoji screen, evoking an elegant, serene atmosphere.

Japanese Whiskey Cocktails: Mixing Fun with Far East Flavors

Check out our simple recipes for Japanese whisky cocktails! Using good whiskey and basic mix-ins, these drinks are fun and tasty.

Japanese whiskey cocktails are more than just a drink; they blend Japan’s rich culture and tradition harmoniously. Imagine the beauty of cherry blossoms in full bloom, the rhythmic sound of taiko drums, and the art of origami all coming together in a glass. Just as sake captures the essence of rice and shochu embodies the barley spirit, Japanese whisky stands for the nation’s dedication to perfection. From the classic highball and simple smash to the best old-fashioned you’ve ever tasted, age-old traditions meet modern mixology. Kanpai!

Fun Fact: The term “whisky” in Japanese, like in Scottish and Canadian, doesn’t have an ‘E’. When spelled with an ‘E’ – whiskey – it indicates that it’s from American or Irish distilleries. Throughout this article, we will use both.

12 Best Japanese Whisky Cocktails

Our experts have created a list of the best cocktails you can make with Japanese whisky. These typically offer a lighter, more nuanced drinking experience than cocktails made with other whiskey cocktails.

The Red Akuma

The Red Akuma means “Red Devil” in Japanese. It’s a spicy drink with a touch of blood orange, popular in Tokyo’s fun nightlife.

Ingredients: Japanese whisky, chili syrup, orange juice, agave.

The Smash

The Smash is like the usual whiskey drink but with a twist. It’s minty and citrusy, great for warm evenings.

Ingredients: Japanese whisky, mint, lemon, sugar syrup.

The Beast

The Beast is a strong drink with a smoky taste. It’s for those who like bold flavors.

Ingredients: Japanese whisky, smoky syrup, bitters.

Black Ship

Black Ship mixes Japanese whiskey with other flavors. It’s named after Japan’s old ships and tastes like a mix of old and new.

Ingredients: Japanese whisky, coffee flavor, vermouth.

Tokyo Sidecar

Tokyo Sidecar is a Japanese version of the Sidecar drink. It’s citrusy and reminds you of busy Tokyo streets.

Ingredients: Japanese whisky, orange flavor, lemon juice.

Nippon Cocktail

Nippon means Japan. This drink is sweet and smooth, showing off Japan’s drink-making skills.

Ingredients: Japanese whisky, sake, honey syrup.

Nail In The Coffin

This drink has a catchy name and a mix of deep flavors. It’s both sweet and strong.

Ingredients: Japanese whisky, vermouth, cherry flavor.

Highball Mizuwari

This drink is simple and clean, showing off good Japanese whiskey. It’s served the Mizuwari way.

Ingredients: Japanese whisky, fizzy water.

Japanese Maple Cocktail

This drink is sweet, like maple, and reminds you of Japan in the fall.

Ingredients: Japanese whisky, maple syrup, lemon juice.

Japanese Highball

A side shot of a Japanese Highball cocktail in a highball glass on a wooden coaster on a white table surrounded by a bar spoon, a japanese whiskey bottle and a red cloth.

A common drink in Japan, it’s simple and lets the liquor taste stand out.

Ingredients: Japanese whisky, soda water.

Japanese Sour

This drink is a mix of sour and sweet, like Japanese citrus fruits. It’s fresh and tangy.

Ingredients: Japanese whisky, lemon juice, sugar syrup.

Japanese Yuzu Whiskey Sour

This is a sour drink with yuzu, a Japanese citrus. It’s tangy and different.

Ingredients: Japanese whisky, yuzu juice, sugar syrup. 

Top 7 Japanese Whisky Brands to Use in Cocktails

By mixing old traditions with new innovations, these brands are making whiskies that are quickly gaining popularity worldwide:

Yamazaki (Suntory)

Yamazaki, Japan’s oldest malt whiskey distillery, started in 1923 near Kyoto. Its unique taste comes from the region’s pure waters. For cocktails like the “Yamazaki Old Fashioned” or a simple “Yamazaki Highball,” this whiskey provides a deep, smooth flavor that stands out.

Hibiki

Hibiki means “resonance” in Japanese, harmonizing malt and grain whiskeys from various years. This whisky has a fruity and complex profile that shines in cocktails like the “Hibiki Harmony Sour” or the elegant “Hibiki Spritz.”

Nikka

Nikka, founded by Masataka Taketsuru after learning whiskey-making in Scotland, combines Scottish methods with Japanese craftsmanship. Cocktails like the “Nikka Coffee Grain Espresso Martini” or “Nikka on the Rocks” highlight its bold character.

Hakushu

Located in the Japanese Alps, Hakushu is known for its fresh and herbal notes. It’s a go-to for cocktails that require a crisp touch. The “Hakushu Highball” or a “Hakushu Mint Julep” are perfect examples of its versatility.

Chichibu

Chichibu, a newer distillery, has quickly gained a reputation for its innovative approach. Its whiskeys, with their fruity and malty profile, are great in modern mixes like the “Chichibu Whiskey Sour” or the “Chichibu Punch”.

Chita

Chita produces mainly grain whiskeys, known for their light and versatile nature. They’re ideal for lighter cocktails. A “Chita Collins” or a simple “Chita and Soda” lets the whiskey’s subtle flavors come through.

White Oak

White Oak, based in Akashi, has a maritime influence on its whiskeys. This gives them a slightly salty touch, perfect for unique mixes. Cocktails like the “White Oak Ocean Breeze” or the “Akashi Whiskey Smash” showcase its distinct profile.

Types

Japanese whisky is a favorite among spirit lovers. We’ve made an overview of the different types and distilleries, from smooth blends to rich, peated single malts:

  • Single Malt Whisky comes from one distillery and uses 100% malted barley. Well-known distilleries like Yamazaki and Hakushu make these whiskies and offer rich and quality flavors.
  • Blended Malt Whisky mixes malts from different distilleries, offering a flavorful experience. Labels like Nikka Pure Malt and Mars Maltage create exciting tastes by blending different malts artfully.
  • Single Grain Whisky uses different grains, and all whiskies come from one distillery. Distilleries like Chita bring new and flavorful experiences by using various grains.
  • Blended Grain Whisky combines grain whiskies from different distilleries. These whiskies often add unique and intricate flavors when blended.
  • Blended Whisky, malt, and grain whiskies from different distilleries come together. Well-known blends like Hibiki, Toki, and Nikka From The Barrel show the balanced and elegant flavors Japanese blended whiskies can offer. More types of cocktails

More Cocktail Types

There are so many more cocktails to make! Here are some of our best drink collections on Drinks World:

… and more collections for whiskey mixes as well:

  • Bourbon Drinks – Mint Julep, Whiskey Sour, and more bourbon classics.
  • Scotch Drinks – Refined choices like the Rob Roy, Rusty Nail, and other Scotch specialties.
  • Rye Whiskey Drinks – Try standout mixes: the Sazerac, Rye Manhattan, and beyond.
  • Irish Whiskey Drinks – Enjoy Irish favorites: Irish Coffee and the Whiskey Ginger.

FAQs

  1. How is Japanese whiskey different from Scotch or Bourbon? It often blends Scottish techniques with unique Japanese ingredients and climate, resulting in a distinct flavor profile.
  2. What mixers go well with Japanese whiskey? Soda water, citrus juices, and simple syrup are common mixers.
  3. What’s the difference between a Highball and Mizuwari? Both are whiskey and water, but Mizuwari involves a specific ritual of mixing and ice.
  4. Are there seasonal Japanese whiskey cocktails? Yes, some cocktails are tailored for specific seasons, like the Japanese Maple Cocktail for autumn.

Simple Japanese Whiskey Cocktails: Japanese Highball Recipe (and 11 More)

Check out this straightforward Japanese Highball recipe! It combines Japanese whisky, fizzy water, and a touch of citrus for a great taste.

Japanese Highball Cocktail Drink

Japanese Highball Recipe

Jump to Video
Our simple Japanese Highball recipe is your ticket to unwind! The blend of whiskey and soda water creates a refreshing cocktail perfect for the fall season.
Prep time: 1 minute
Mixing time: 1 minute
Servings: 1
Calories: 142

Ingredients
 

  • 2 oz Whisk(e)y - Scotch or Japanese
  • 4 oz soda water
  • Ice cubes

Equipment

  • Highball Glass
  • Measuring Jigger
  • Bar spoon or long stirrer

Instructions

  • Chill Glass (optional): If you want, you can put your highball glass in the freezer for a few minutes before preparing the drink. This will ensure the drink remains cold for a longer period of time and minimize dilution.
  • Add Whisky: Pour 2 oz Whisk(e)y into the chilled glass.
  • Fill Glass with ice: Fill the glass with a generous amount of ice cubes.
  • Add Soda Water: Top-up with 4 oz soda water.
  • Stir: Using a bar spoon or long stirrer, stir gently to combine. Serve immediately.

Notes

Substitutes:

  • Whisky: Almost any kind of whisky or whiskey will work for this recipe. If you don't have Whisky, you can use bourbon as a substitute. It has a sweeter and fuller-bodied flavor that works well in this cocktail. Alternatively, you can use rye for a spicier kick, or even Irish whiskey.
  • Soda Water: Any type of fizzy, no-sugar added water will work for this cocktail (club soda, sparkling water, seltzer water…). They all add the necessary fizz to the drink.

Making it Non-Alcoholic:

  • Whisky Substitute: I use a non-alcoholic whisky substitute for a non-alcoholic version. There are several brands available that mimic the flavor of Whisky quite well. If you’re feeling crafty, you can also make your own whisky substitute by making a strong brewed black or smoked tea: use 10g of tea for 1L (34 oz) of cold water. Stir well and let it infuse overnight in the fridge. Give it a taste, add some spices to taste (if necessary) and strain it once you’re happy with the result. Stored properly (in an airtight container in the fridge), this “tea-whisky” can be kept for up to a week. You can also add 1 dash of Angostura bitters to your drink to give it a spicy kick (2 dashes of bitter in an otherwise alcohol-free drink won’t raise the overall ABV of the drink. The drink will indeed chemically contain a drop of alcohol, but won’t make you intoxicated at all. Depending on your reason for not drinking alcohol and your degree of tolerance on the topic, this can also be a suitable option.)
  • Proceed As Usual: I use this non-alcoholic substitute instead of regular Whisky, follow the original steps, and enjoy a non-alcoholic version.

Making it Vegan:

Good news for vegans - this drink is already vegan-friendly! Just check your ingredients' labels to ensure they don't contain any hidden animal-derived products.

 

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