10 ways to drink Japanese whisky: #10, Choiso

As Japanese whisky makers enjoy their time in the worldwide spotlight, more and more people are waking up to the reality that Japanese consumers may also know a thing or two about the ways to drink Japanese whisky. Of course there’s the izakaya staple whisky highball, but if you dig a bit deeper, you’ll discover there are plenty more interesting ways that Japan drinks their country’s whisky.

A common theme you’ll find about all these choices: one way or another, you add water to the whisky! Japan generally has no hang-ups about putting water in whisky. If you want to drink Japanese whisky like a local, I suggest you give these a try.

In this 10-part series, we dive into each different serving style.

The final entry in this series, #10, is by far the most obscure. Many whisky drinkers will add water to their whisky to “open it up,” or give more medium for the aromas and flavors of the whisky to carry through. But what if you added soda instead, like a miniature highball?


This is definitely the rarest way of drinking Japanese whisky of all ten I’ve presented. Even in Japan you may find some bartenders who don’t know what it is. The bartenders that do, though, will probably be very curious to find out how you’ve learned about it.

“Choiso” is short for chotto soda wari, or “with a little bit of soda.”  Of course your first question is… well how much is a little bit? There’s really no straight answer here, we’re talking about drinking after all, but generally the idea is that you serve up a drink on the rocks and put in “a little bit” of soda. Many prefer it just enough for the soda to reach the top of the ice in your rock glass. Like the Samboa Highball, this way of drinking whisky supposedly originated in Kansai. At some bars in Kansai, highball and choiso are used interchangeably! I’ve decided to skip the ice when I made mine, but of course this is entirely up to you.

Variations include “choimizu” for “with a little bit of still water,” but as we’ve learned that’s generally referred to as a half rock. There’s also “choitoni” for “with a little bit of tonic,” but if you’re mixing your whisky with tonic… I can’t help you.

Next time you’re at a bar in Tokyo, try ordering your favorite whisky “choiso” style!

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