The Unexpected Ingredient That Will Majorly Upgrade Your Japanese Whiskey Highball

The epitome of a good Japanese highball is a few nuances — and perhaps an unexpected ingredient. Recipe developer Michelle McGlinn has contrived a unique hack to upgrade this three-ingredient cocktail in her Mashed-exclusive Japanese whiskey highball recipe.

While a standard highball contains whiskey and soda, it's "the proportion of [soda] water to whiskey" that sets it aside from your standard whiskey-and-soda drink, explains Bloomberg. In the case of the traditional Japanese highball, the whiskey-to-water ratio is three parts water to one whiskey. And it requires Japanese whiskey, which adheres to the Scotch method of distilling and uses the same ingredients to produce a drier palate than the average American whiskey, according to Men's Journal.

McGlinn's ingredient list consists of club soda or ginger ale for the bubbles, lemon peel for garnish, and Japanese whiskey, which defines the Japanese variant of the highball. These components seem standard enough (except for the ginger ale, which she prefers over club soda). McGlinn also recommends using large ice cubes, which last longer without diluting the drink. But she also includes a matchstick among her utensils. Here's what sets her Japanese highball apart from the rest.

Revolutionizing the Japanese highball

If you're familiar with the Japanese highball, you'll know that mixologists often add a citrus garnish to the drink. But recipe developer Michelle McGlinn uses lemon in a different way for her Japanese whiskey highball recipe: She uses it to flame. By not following the standard garnishing procedure, McGlinn's highballs will sustain more carbonation than those with a lemon garnish.

"There are a lot of small but important details in perfecting your flaming technique — honestly, it comes with practice, and I'm still trying to achieve a 'perfect' flame," McGlinn says. "To get the biggest flame, peel a lemon with a thick pith — I use a knife to carve all the way down to the inside, since most peelers are designed to peel the surface only."

McGlinn's method requires that you squeeze the oils out of the lemon peel while holding it above the whiskey and soda mixture and light it with the match. This method results in the highball taking on a smoky citrus essence, complementing the robust flavor of the Japanese whiskey, which is rounded by the smoky sweetness of the ginger ale. The result is an exquisite gustatory experience.