For those who love Japanese alcohol, Nunu has most of the highlights covered: fine sakes, seven kinds of potent shochu, a solid list of excellent Japanese whisky (spelled the Scottish way, minus the “e”). But the whisky highballs on draft are, at least for me, something new. Co-owners Ben Puchowitz and Shawn Darragh came across this relatively light and refreshingly fizzy cocktail during their reconnaissance trip to Japan and decided they needed one of the special machines for their Fishtown izakaya. The machine optimizes temperature and texture by chilling Toki Japanese whisky to just the right degree and combining it with a second spout of soda water that has the perfectly calibrated amount carbonation so it holds those bubbles with a certain vigor longer in the glass. Dip your nose into one of the dimpled frosty mugs, and the delicate aromas practically mist across the surface.
The classic whisky highball version blends the spirit with ginger ale, or sometimes soda water. Nunu’s variations are something of a compromise, infusing soda water with subtle flavors that have personality without being too sweet. The lemon version (No. 1) is the lightest of the bunch, which I’ll leave for summer sipping. The mandarin orange and sage (No. 2) delivers an autumnal savor. My favorite is a highball twist on the Sazerac with absinthe and Peychaud’s. It’s certainly not as punchy as the original, undiluted cocktail, though the anise aromatics and woodsy, citrus spice of the bitters hover right in your nose and pair well with Toki’s vanilla sweet and citrusy profile. This bubbly mug is more about session-drinking with a sparkle that’s friendly for fried food rather than packing a boozy wallop. All the better to order more than one, along with another round of yakitori skewers, to explore the izakaya’s menu a while longer.
— Craig LaBan
Draft whisky highballs, $10-$13, nunu, 1414 Frankford Ave., 215-278-2804; nunuphilly.com