Drink Picks

Japan’s Favorite Highball, with a Twist

Shochu distilled from sweet potato mingles with mezcal in Bar Goto’s Highball No. 2 cocktail

Photo credit (above): Bar Goto; Photo credit (below): Tina B Foto
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Kenta Goto, proprietor,

Bar Goto and Bar Goto Niban, New York City

In Japan, the shochu highball makes such frequent appearances at bars that the effervescent cocktail has garnered a nickname: chūhai. But most often, points out Kenta Goto, the proprietor of Bar Goto and Bar Goto Niban in New York City, the drink’s featured shochu is made from barley. 

By contrast, Goto whips up his Highball No. 2, available at both Bar Goto, on the Lower East Side, and Bar Goto Niban, in Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights neighborhood, with imo shochu, distilled from sweet potato. It has “an earthy, savory, and distinct flavor, similar to mezcal,” notes Goto. Pairing the shochu with mezcal in the cocktail, then, was a natural inclination for Goto, who also finishes it with tonic water and club soda. 

 “It’s a simple drink, but there are a lot of calculations going into this highball,” he says. “The blend of soda and tonic adds balance and lets the flavor of the imo shochu come through. Made with club soda only, the drink is very dry,” but bolstered with “a small amount of tonic, the slight bitterness of quinine enhances the earthy profile of the spirits.” Serving the Highball No. 2 in a ceramic cup reminiscent of a mezcal copita instead of a glass adds a final, unconventional flourish.   

Highball No. 2 Selling Points

  • Bar Goto’s cocktail is a surprisingly complex alternative for fans of classic highballs.
  • The U.S. is finally beginning to embrace shochu, and experts think it’s poised for a takeoff.
  • Mezcal continues to be popular among American consumers, especially in cocktails.

Bar Goto’s Highball No. 2 Recipe

  • 1 oz. imo shochu
  • ¼ oz. mezcal
  • 1 oz. tonic water
  • 3 oz. club soda

Method: Stir ice, shochu, and mezcal in a ceramic mug. Top with tonic water and club soda. Garnish with orange peel.

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Alia Akkam is a writer who covers food, drink, travel, and design. She is the author of Behind the Bar: 50 Cocktails from the World’s Most Iconic Hotels (Hardie Grant) and her work has appeared in Architecturaldigest.com, Dwell.com, Penta, Vogue.com, BBC, Playboy, and Taste, among others, and she is a former editor at Edible Queens, Hospitality Design, and Beverage Media. A native New Yorker, Alia now calls Budapest home. Follow Alia @behdria.

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