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The long story of Suntory Highball

Suntory Highball威足半世紀

Highball is a kind of cocktail which often based on those common drinks such as Gin&Tonic, Vodka&Tonic, Scotch&Soda with the addition of ice and then diluted by non-alcoholic beverage. It was highly popular in bars of Golf Club in England, and was extremely nice served as an aperitif after the game and before the meal.

Japanese are fond of playing golf, especially during the harsh post-war ages. They drink together after work, play golf on Sunday mornings. It became a mean of delighting people - the managers have to please the boss, and the bosses have to please the clients.

Masataka Taketsuru had been co-working with Tori Shinjirou of Suntory until they finally broke up as a result of conflict. Tori then devoted himself in creating authentic Japanese brands such as Yamazaki and Suntory. His will in producing regional deviates from that of Taketsuru. In 2014 Suntory took over Jim Beam of the United States, and become the third largest spirits company in the world.

 

The rise of the Japanese highball was highly attributed to Torii, as he opened his ‘Torys Bar’ in 1960s. The most popular drink in the bar was Kakubin Highball, which was a classic drink served in quartet bottle carved with patterns of turtle shell. Torii caught the palate of the public and created Suntory whisky based on this. Nowadays Suntory extends the bar concept abroad including Taiwan and Hong Kong. Last year they opened “Master House” in Lan Kwai Fong. Although it focuses in the “Premium Malts” series, the array of Highball glasses on the rack, especially the renowned Hibiki, Yamazaki and Hakushi, definitely draws much attention of Malt fans.

Certainly this is not a Men-only chic point. Women are equally interested spending their happy hours here as the highball glasses are well-designed. The circular patterns, namely Seven Treasures, on the ‘HIbiki’ glass signify a bless of peace and luck, which perfectly matches the carved on its bottle. The ‘Yamazaki’ glass is painted in brown, not only for the sake of sun-proof but also a nostalgia of this oldest distillery in Japan. Hakushu distillery is located in the midst of woods and its bottle is designed in green color. The Hakusu glass therefore extends this fresh ambience by using greenish glass.

Dedication, respect and professionism are the three pillars behind Suntory philosophy. Being a Japanese bar, the place is always clean and neat, furnished with wooden element which gives a sense of relaxing. The waiters are polite and sommeliers knowledgeable. Being one of the guests of its opening ceremony, Tetsu Mizutanim, who is also known as Mr. Highball, demonstrated how to pour and drink beer properly, and the standard way of making a Suntory Highball.

Big ice rather than crushed ice is preferred in making highball in order to keep the freshness of soda. A clean water source and the environment of making ice is also important. Sparkling mineral water is a good substitute of soda, although it is more expensive. Fill the glass with ice, then add whisky and soda/ sparkling water respectively in 3:7 proportion. Gently stir it with a bar spoon and a classic Suntory Highball is done.

 

Highball屬一種雞尾酒,以酒精作基礎,然後加入冰塊,再注入非酒精飲品作稀釋, 最平常例子莫過於Gin and Tonic, Vodka and Tonic, Scotch and Soda等交際型飲品,通常是餐前聊天,來一杯清爽而酒精度不高的飲料.早在英國高爾夫球會酒吧, 很流行highball飲品, 在球會裡 ”ball” 是指威士忌, “high” 是指高身酒杯, 打完球後呷一口, 心曠神怡, 威士忌梳打就這樣流行起來.

日本人喜歡打高爾夫球,尢其大戰後五十到八十年代那段奮鬥日子,應付不尋常工作量之餘,更掀起打球熱潮. 老板娛樂大客,高級職員娛樂老板,小經理娛樂上司等,收工後喝酒唱歌,周日天未亮已經在發球, 高爾夫球是蘇格蘭國技, 鍾情這玩意,又怎可以小了威士忌!

曾提及竹鶴政孝和Suntory老板鳥井信治郎因合作而起衝突,導致最終不歡而散, 鳥井一心要打造真正來自國家的酒類品牌,例如山崎和Suntory威士忌, 他堅持釀造適合國民口味威士忌, 這跟竹鶴政孝根深蒂固的蘇格蘭理念起衝突. 後來鳥井更生產Suntory啤酒,事業更上一層樓. Suntory在2014年收購美國最大波本威士忌Jim Beam生產商, 現在成為全球第三大烈酒企業.

最初日本highball的興起,就是拜鳥井先生所賜,因為在六十年代以他自己名字Torii開設連鎖式酒吧Torys Bar,最受歡迎的飲品是Kakubin Highball,這款四方酒瓶和瓶身上類似龜殼花紋是當代經典,這就是1937年鳥井根據國民喜好的柔和口味,而生產的本土威士忌. 現代Suntory酒吧概念伸延至海外台灣和香港,在去年七月於中環蒲點蘭桂芳開設Master House,雖然以Premium Malts系列啤酒為主打,但是威士忌粉絲們一定被酒架上整齊排列的Highball酒杯鎖定眼睛, 賣點是人所共知的”響”,“山崎”和”白州”.

以為這地方是男人天下嗎?現代女性工餘後也會來這裡享受杯Highball,因為杯形設計很美而且滿載心思. “響”杯身的圓形交錯圖案名叫”七寶紋樣”,有圓滿吉祥之意,正好配合酒瓶以24個切面象徵24節氣,祝君全年安好; “山崎”是日本最古老蒸餾所之一,其棕色酒瓶可是當時為了保護酒質被陽光直射所影響,也是三十年代普遍酒瓶色調,杯子也刻意配上棕色,讓大家來懷舊一番; “白州”蒸餾所設立在森林之中,青色酒瓶有綠意盎然清新感覺,酒杯選用青色玻璃,帶來舒緩情緒效果,炎炎夏日來一杯簡直是透心涼.

Suntory的概念是專注,尊重和專業.稱得上日本酒吧的話, 地方環境必須整潔雅緻,裝修通常以木材作主題,令人感覺輕鬆自然.侍應衣服得體,談吐溫文.酒吧侍酒師必須具知識水平,對人客疑問應對如流. Master House開業時,專誠安排有Highball先生之稱的水谷先生到港坐陣,示範怎樣倒啤酒和喝法才是正宗. 當然泡製一杯Suntory Highball更須一絲不苟, 因為水谷先生自創一套Highball調法, 在日本已成為標準.

調教Highball必須採用大冰塊,切忌用碎冰,因為目的不是把酒稀釋,而是令梳打水更清新爽快,最重要是水源和製冰環境必須乾淨無異味.其實不一定採用梳打水, 可以考慮較貴價的有汽礦泉水. 把杯盛滿大冰塊, 下威士忌比例是 3:7, 三分威士忌和七分蘇打水. 然後在杯邊沿注入梳打或有汽礦泉水, 盡量避免接觸到冰塊, 最後用調酒匙沿著杯子內側輕輕繞一圈便成, 這就是正宗的Suntory Highball.