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As Diageo’s Global Cocktailian, I’m very lucky to see a lot of the world as part of my role – and, in particular, I get the opportunity to get up close and personal with what’s going on in some of the world’s best bars and restaurants.

Not only is this inspiring and a really good time, it’s a wonderful opportunity to meet and learn from so many different people from varying cultures and backgrounds. People who are attracted to working in hospitality often bring so much to the table.

Terrible puns aside - the knowledge, techniques, flavors and ideas are shaped by their own personal journey and attitudes; so I always find it fascinating to experience someone else’s take on drinks and especially ones I’m quite familiar with.


The highball is a traditional format of cocktail that typically consists of a spirit and a carbonate over ice in a tall glass. These, traditionally, call for little to no fruit juice and have a few familiar formats: Scotch & soda, rum & coke, vodka & tonic, to name a few. Like most cocktails, the origin is hotly debated – but it’s thought to have originated around 1900. One thing that isn’t debated, is where the highball, and specifically the Scotch & soda variation, was perfected: Japan.

The highball is a great vehicle to take a journey to different regions of the world. It’s a highly adaptable blueprint and very approachable to new drinkers (and drink makers). The versatility of Johnnie Walker Black Label is perfectly suited for highballs too, as you can draw from the tropical fruit notes, creamy toffee flavors from grain influence or the signature backbone of smoke – or all of them!

The highball itself has many forms but is often misunderstood or overlooked for its apparent simplicity. The tall glass and inclusion of mixers can cause many to downplay the credibility of a whisky highball, but it’s an exercise in subtlety and an art of balance – as we’ll see in the possibilities outlined below.

Join me on a journey that stretches to Japan and Sri Lanka as we explore a few of my favorite highballs from my recent travels and consider how flavors interplay with Johnnie Walker Black Label for global palates.


(credit to Leila Kwok)

Inspired by the sleeping giant – Mt. Fuji, and the spiritual home of the highball, Japan – this draws subtle tropical notes from Johnnie Walker Black Label that add weight to the clean, bracing notes from the yuzu and apple.

These flavors combine to give a breath of the Japanese flora landscape; it’s fresh, delicious and quenching.

(Alcohol content: 0.7 fl oz. per serve)


  1. Spray the inside of the collins glass with balsam fir spray.
  2. Build all ingredients over ice in a collins glass that’s wrapped with an evergreen wreath and feather, affix to glass using a brown elastic band on the top, and bottom of the glass (or butcher’s twine).
  3. Express lemon peel over the top of the cocktail and discard, finish with balsam fir spray.

Green Apple Syrup

(yield 1L)


  1. In the bottom of a 1L measuring cup or deli container, add the two acids.
  2. Using a juicer, add the apples in right away to prevent the apples from browning.
  3. The juice must be collected in the 1L container with the acids in the bottom.
  4. After juicing, combine the exact volume with white sugar as directed – stir until dissolved – DO NOT HEAT – this will take about 10 minutes to dissolve.
  5. Place in a dated, container with a label, store in bottle in syrup rail, and replace the back up in the fridge.

Use as needed (shelf life – 5 days)

Balsam Fir Spray

(yield 1L)


  1. Combine both the vodka and oil into an atomizer, shake to combine – use as needed.

Store in the cooler (shelf life – 30 days).


(credit to Issha Marie Onoya)

People love their whisky in the India/Sri Lanka. Due to the dramatic dry-wet seasonal changes, along with hot climates being so close to the equator, a refreshing and complex iced tea with tropical fruit, Pondicherry peppercorns and steeped black tea to accompany the Johnnie Walker Black is in order, and ideal within the food occasion, at the first or second course.

The original name for Sri Lanka is “Ceylon”, and of course the world-famous black tea of the same name is produced in this country. The monsoon is a weather system affecting different parts of the Indian Ocean, and 60% of the precipitation dumped on Sri Lanka is the result of the Southwest Monsoon, which siphons water and precipitation from the neighboring Bay of Bengal and redistributes to the East.

This region is affected by both dry and wet seasons, rather than quarterly seasons, and the effects of such drastic precipitation changes are experienced between May, which is bone dry, and August, which is green soaked.



  1. Build all ingredients in a Collins glass
  2. Top with ice and stir
  3. Garnish with an orange peel rose.

(Alcohol content: 1 fl oz. per serve)

Shrub, Mango + Black Pepper Shrub

(yield: 1.25L)


  1. On low heat, mix all of the ingredients together.
  2. Smash the peppercorns and add at the end.
  3. Remove from the heat and allow to steep for 24-48 hours in the cooler.
  4. Remove the peppercorns (flecks are ok) and strain.
  5. Add to sanitized and dated bottles and keep cool (shrub will last for 7-10 days).

Ceylon Cold Brew Tea

(yield: 1L)


  1. Add the Ceylon tea to the filtered water.
  2. Stir to cover.
  3. Place in the cooler, covered, for 24 hours.
  4. Strain the tea, and cold brew is ready – the cold tea should be floral, fragrant, tea flavor-rich, and transparent with great color.