In Japan, the whisky highball is a way of life. There are specific techniques developed to perfect the two-ingredient drink, and specialized machines dedicated to dialing in its effervescence; there has even been a six-years-running television miniseries devoted to the straightforward highball. The two-part serve is essential drinking, and so, too, is the ready-to-drink version, in canned iterations that can be found in stores and vending machines across the country.
Now, the crisp, portable and convenient cocktails are available without the trip to Tokyo. Following in the footsteps of the spritz and Ranch Water, canned whiskey highballs—available from large spirits producers like Jim Beam, along with some of Japan’s oldest distilleries and a handful of domestic upstarts—are gunning for a spot in your cooler.
But not all RTD highballs are created equal. When the Punch team recently tasted through 10 options that are available stateside, just one stood out. (Though, it should be noted, Suntory’s cult-favorite Kaku Highball and brand-new Hakushu Highball could not be sourced outside of Japan.) The options ranged from extremely light (“like whisky-flavored seltzer,” according to one taster) to excessively boozy. The best of the bunch met the core criteria: It was refreshing, well-carbonated and balanced straight from the can. In other words, it was truly ready-to-drink, no need for ice, a twist or any other modifier to be enjoyed.
Produced by the spirits subscription service Flaviar, HaiBall is a refreshing “hard seltzer for whisky lovers,” according to the brand. At 5.9 percent ABV, the cans are crushable, and aren’t weighed down by additional flavoring that makes other examples on the market feel too far removed from the original drink. Flaviar brand manager Amy Yakuboff says the blend of whiskeys at the base of the drink—various Scotches, bourbon, rye and Japanese whisky—is inspired by the global reach of the drink, with different riffs calling for different whiskeys. But despite the complexity that comes from the blended base, the drink remains first and foremost a light, bubbly refreshment that we’d be happy to take on the go.
Simply put, HaiBall is the most highball-like of the RTD versions, and it proves that the easy-to-make drink may, in fact, be made even easier—by enjoying it straight from the can.