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Highballs


JAZ
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I get the impression that Scotch & water (called a mizuwari) is a very popular drink in Japan. The last time this was a popular order in the US was probably 50 years ago. Why do you think that that the drink (and water highballs in general) went into decline in the United States but not in Japan?

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"Mizuwari" is the term for any spirit, including shochu, diluted with water. (The word is composed of "water" + "break")

I think Japan just didn't succumb to the illusion that "neat" is the only proper way to drink Scotch. In the US some sort of misplaced snobbery has emerged that says adding anything to your Scotch ruins it.

Jason Truesdell

Blog: Pursuing My Passions

Take me to your ryokan, please

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Suntry provides this nice procedure for making mizuwari on their website:

http://www.suntory.co.jp/whisky/museum/ent...enge/water.html

(Sorry, Japanese only)

1. Put plenty of ice.

2. Pour an appropriate amount of whisky (about 30 to 45 ml).

3. Stir 13 and a half times without adding water.

4. Add some ice.

5. Pour 2 to 2.5 times as much natural water as whisky, and stir gently about 3 times.

So, why stir well before adding water?

The site says that mixing water to whiskey generates dilution heat, causing it to rise to about 3 C in temperature. By cooking the glass and the whisky well enough, you can make mizuwari where the whisky is hard to dilute, keeping the balance of flavors.

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Oh, I realize you're just translating, Hiroyuki! But these directions don't really resemble any cocktail recipe I've ever seen.

Assuming room temperature booze, this would probably lead to a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio of whisky to water, at least at the outset; as the ice melts, of course, that'd make for more water, unnatural though it may be. I don't really see the relevance of dilution heat in this situation, though perhaps I'm missing something. Or perhaps these directions are wonky. I mean, really: 13 1/2 times is a bit wack.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Let me give you some clarifications.

Stirring 13 1/2 times before adding water is definitely Suntory's style. As I suggested previously, this step is required to chill the whisky and the glass well and offset the temperature rise that occurs when you add water.

Wonky or not, this way of making mizuwari is from Suntory, a leading whisky manufacturer in Japan.

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Actually, it's really funny this topic popped up today. I was sitting at the bar of my favourite izakaya last night while they were training new staff. The bar was full of young people, and a lot of mizuwarus were going out. Not just scotch, but cassis and water; and yuzu liqueur and water (not to mention glass after glass of "cassis orange" the ultimate Japanese girl drink, from what I can see; and yuzu sours, whatever the heck those are), and of course, a lot of shochu waters as well. The bartender doing the training was very specific about the number of times the drink had to be stirred, going so far as to make the trainee remake a couple of drinks that he'd botched by stirring too much. I couldn't catch his explanation of why, but he was very specific about it. My husband, who is studying for the JPLT (Japanese Language Test) was heartened to see the trainee struggling to memorize the kanji on all the various bottles of sake and awamori.

For the record, I was drinking a shiso-umeshu on the rocks (tasted like cherry Kool-aid!) and my husband had awamori - also on the rocks.

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Going back to the initial question, I think the answer is relatively simple. The Japanese are (or at least were) less familiar with whisky than with sake, and probably find it less off-putting to dilute it with water. On the other hand, many Japanese would feel it rather (or very) offensive to dilute sake with water or use it as a base for a cocktail.

You can do creative and innovative things to something you are not familiar with, like making weird spicy sushi rolls, and the Japanese can put mayo and corn on their pizzas.

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Going back to the initial question, I think the answer is relatively simple.  The Japanese are (or at least were) less familiar with whisky than with sake, and probably find it less off-putting to dilute it with water.  On the other hand, many Japanese would feel it rather (or very) offensive to dilute sake with water or use it as a base for a cocktail.

You can do creative and innovative things to something you are not familiar with, like making weird spicy sushi rolls, and the Japanese can put mayo and corn on their pizzas.

Very nice, thanks.

There are things in many cultures that don't make sense when explored from another context. Like, "... stir with ice and strain into an ice filled glass..." In my opinion it is best to embrace the diversity of approaches without over-thinking everything.

In Japan you can spend hours making a bowl of tea (although I understand tea ceremony is not "mainstream"). In the Pacific Northwest USA you can walk all over town sipping your, now tepid, venti soy Chai.

It's almost never bad to feed someone.

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The site says that mixing water to whiskey generates dilution heat, causing it to rise to about 3 C in temperature.  By cooking the glass and the whisky well enough, you can make mizuwari where the whisky is hard to dilute, keeping the balance of flavors.

I am not aware of anything known as "dilution heat." In order for combining whiskey with water to cause the resultant solution to rise in temperature from, there would have to be an exothermic reaction. In consideration of the fact that the whiskey is already at least 50% water, I would say that this is impossible on a chemical basis.

Oh, I realize you're just translating, Hiroyuki! But these directions don't really resemble any cocktail recipe I've ever seen.

It's not a cocktail. It's "Whiskey and Water."

A ratio of 1:2 or 2:5 doesn't strike me as all that unusual for whiskey and water. It just won't have that much alcoholic potency, is all. But plenty of highballs have a much larger ratio of spirit to (fizzy) water than what Suntory recommends.

There are definitely certain flavors and nuances that will become apparent when the spirit is diluted like this that are obscured when the spirit is taken at full intensity

--

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I've always heard that a little bit of water added to the whiskey causes a chemical reaction that is supposed to raise its temperature a bit and that you can observe this by noting a stronger aroma off of the scotch after the volatility of the drink is increased by this process. Maybe this is what "dilution heat" refers to. But even if it is true, I do doubt that this "dilution heat" is represented in a scientific way by the procedure described here--could it really factor in much with all that ice? I don't think so.

But as an idea, I think it makes sense: if the idea is to account for every possible contingency whether scientifically established or perhaps only customarily excepted as a real phenomenon (in which case, it may as well be real anyway) in the course of the making of the drink, it would be pleasing for bartender and customer to see so much care and precision lavished, perhaps especially so for such a simple drink such as this one.

nunc est bibendum...

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I've always heard that a little bit of water added to the whiskey causes a chemical reaction that is supposed to raise its temperature a bit and that you can observe this by noting a stronger aroma off of the scotch after the volatility of the drink is increased by this process.

Think about it... considering that 100 proof whiskey is 50% water by volume, how could this possibly be true?

--

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I've always heard that a little bit of water added to the whiskey causes a chemical reaction that is supposed to raise its temperature a bit and that you can observe this by noting a stronger aroma off of the scotch after the volatility of the drink is increased by this process.

Think about it... considering that 100 proof whiskey is 50% water by volume, how could this possibly be true?

I never said that I thought it was true. People do seem to think it's true though, so I hazard to guess that's what "dilution heat" means in this mizuwari recipe.

nunc est bibendum...

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There are things in many cultures that don't make sense when explored from another context. Like, "... stir with ice and strain into an ice filled glass..."

This one, at least, I think I can partially answer. A cocktail on the rocks looks larger than one that is served straight up, which can appease a certain sort of drinker. Also, straining a cocktail into the glass over new ice gives the impression of more care being put into the drink than just dumping the drink ice and all into a glass, despite the fact that the end result is essentially the same. Edited by mbanu (log)
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The site says that mixing water to whiskey generates dilution heat, causing it to rise to about 3 C in temperature.  By cooking the glass and the whisky well enough, you can make mizuwari where the whisky is hard to dilute, keeping the balance of flavors.

I am not aware of anything known as "dilution heat." In order for combining whiskey with water to cause the resultant solution to rise in temperature from, there would have to be an exothermic reaction. In consideration of the fact that the whiskey is already at least 50% water, I would say that this is impossible on a chemical basis.

Well, it's been a long time since I took physical chemistry but I assure you it is possible.

Because the weak bonds/interactions between highly polar water and less polar ethanol are different, you get changes in physical properties that are not strictly additive when the two are mixed. So you get a delta-H of mixing that is, um, I think positive and the temperature increases. The effect is really noticeable when you dilute nitric acid with water - it can get really hot. On the other hand if you mix acetic acid and water it gets cold because of the opposite effect on the bonding.

I don't know the magnitude of the temperature effect in mixing alcohol and water or if it really has any effect on the resulting drink. It seems to me that the heat taken up by melting the ice is the same whether it occurs before or after the mixing. But as I pointed out thermodynamics is not always intuitive...

A related illustration is from my thermo textbook (I was hoping they would give me an easy answer to the temperature question). They provide the following example:

"A corrupt barman attempts to prepare 100 cm^3 of some drink by mixing 30 cm^3 of ethanol with 70 cm^3 of water. Does he succeed?" (I'm sure you do this all the time :unsure: ) Skipping the calculations, the answer is that the volume of the mixture is 96.8 cm^3.

Oops, they go on to say, "Comment: It would probably be unwise to attempt to explain this to the barman." :raz:

It's almost never bad to feed someone.

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Mizuwari is what got me seriously into cocktails. . .

The little Japanese bar in Shanghai where I used to drink this would fill a glass with ice cubes, give a long long stir to chill the glass (no idea if it was 13 and a half times!), discard the melt, add more ice cubes (actually more like ice 'chips' or 'shards' or something - they sculpted all their ice with an ice pick), add whiskey, stir briefly, splash of water, stir briefly. Finished.

Very nice it was too. I think the standard pour for that drink was Yamazaki 12 Yo, though Suntory Old was there for those on a budget, and a range of other obscure Japanese whiskeys for those feeling flush.

I'd say the preparation method is crucial for this drink. The initial long stir, discarding of the melt, and adding more ice, really help get that cold and not excessively diluted drink.

Delicious stuff.

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The site says that mixing water to whiskey generates dilution heat, causing it to rise to about 3 C in temperature.  By cooking the glass and the whisky well enough, you can make mizuwari where the whisky is hard to dilute, keeping the balance of flavors.

I am not aware of anything known as "dilution heat." In order for combining whiskey with water to cause the resultant solution to rise in temperature from, there would have to be an exothermic reaction. In consideration of the fact that the whiskey is already at least 50% water, I would say that this is impossible on a chemical basis.

Well, it's been a long time since I took physical chemistry but I assure you it is possible.

Because the weak bonds/interactions between highly polar water and less polar ethanol are different, you get changes in physical properties that are not strictly additive when the two are mixed. So you get a delta-H of mixing that is, um, I think positive and the temperature increases. The effect is really noticeable when you dilute nitric acid with water - it can get really hot. On the other hand if you mix acetic acid and water it gets cold because of the opposite effect on the bonding.

I don't know the magnitude of the temperature effect in mixing alcohol and water or if it really has any effect on the resulting drink. It seems to me that the heat taken up by melting the ice is the same whether it occurs before or after the mixing. But as I pointed out thermodynamics is not always intuitive...

Okay, maybe if you are mixing pure ethanol with pure water. But the point is that <100 proof whiskey is already mostly water!

--

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  • 5 years later...

Started putting my Soda Stream to use and got into highballs, which are drinks I'd never made much. Just curious to hear some recipes in this vein you've enjoyed.

I've been making this:

In a Collin's Glass filled with ice:

2 oz Scotch (just using Dewars)

.5 oz Gran Classico

Dash of Fee's Black Walnut Bitters

Top with club soda, gently stir and garnish with an orange twist

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Quite fond of the Roffignac.

Into an ice-filled Collins glass go:

2 oz Cognac (I reach for Rye more often)

1 oz Raspberry syrup (homemade grenadine also works)

Top with seltzer, swizzle & serve.

True rye and true bourbon wake delight like any great wine...dignify man as possessing a palate that responds to them and ennoble his soul as shimmering with the response.

DeVoto, The Hour

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2 oz Scotch (just using Dewars)

.5 oz Gran Classico

Dash of Fee's Black Walnut Bitters

Top with club soda, gently stir and garnish with an orange twist

This sounds spectacular, although I probably would use a single malt to stand up to the soda dilution. Are the Fee bitters a bit like Nocino?

Kindred Cocktails | Craft + Collect + Concoct + Categorize + Community

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The past year or so I've been putting modern highballs on the cocktail menus at several bars I work with. I start with a flavor base, what would usually be considered the modifier, usually a liqueur, amaro, digestif, house fruit or veggie syrup etc., add a base spirit that matches well, some citrus juice, bitters, simple or other syrup as needed, and top off with 4 oz. seltzer. The permutations are endless.

 

Dan, the Fee bitters are a little bit like nocino, but with more of a black walnut meat and shell. Nice, but more "woody" and not as broad and complex a flavor range as nocino.

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