Shinobu Blended Whisky being poured into a Shinobu-blended shot glass set beside two slices of lemon.
June 9, 2022

What are the best Japanese whisky for cocktails? Let’s back up.

We love Japanese whisky for many reasons. That’s why we made a blog about it. But one thing in particular is its versatility. From bold single malts to light and fruit rice-based whiskies, there’s something for everyone. And when it comes to Japanese whisky, it’s always good.  

Of course, the best way to experience the nuances and the complexities of a Japanese whisky (or, really, any whisky) is to drink it neat. Straight up in your favorite glass, inhaling the aromas and letting the palate linger. However, once you’ve tasted the whisky for all it’s worth, you can drink it how you please. And feel free to mix it up on those certain occasions that call for a nice cocktail. 

Japanese whisky can be an excellent, unique addition to a whisky cocktail. But like we mentioned, there’s such variety in the space, how does one choose the right bottle for your mixed drink? Never fear.  We’re experts here, and we have a few suggestions for the best Japanese whisky for cocktails.

All of these Japanese whisky brands are available in the US, and were selected to make your cocktail party without breaking your bank.

Suntory Toki

Bottle of Toki next to glasses of neat, rocks and highball - best Japanese whisky for cocktails
Credit: House of Suntory

We don’t play favorites here, but we will say this particular Japanese whisky is number 1 on the list for a reason. This list simply wouldn’t be possible without it. House of Suntory is among the first Japanese whisky makers in the history of the product, and has developed into a leading brand within today’s market. Toki, their smooth-drinking blended whisky staple described as a “harmony of old versus new,” was made specifically to be mixed in cocktails like the Japanese highball, and priced to be accessible for your neighborhood pub or your basement bar. Which makes it, as we said, the perfect #1 for this list. 

Cocktails to try:

The classic highball is the obvious one here! Or if you’re looking for a little more punch – the light, fruity nature of Suntory Toku makes it great in a whisky sour. 

Price point: $35-40

Mars Shinshu Iawai


Bottle of Mars Iawai next to a red cocktail in a coup class - best Japanese whisky for cocktails
Credit: Market Watch

Beyond the household names like Suntory, we like to mention the small-but-mighty independent distilleries that are making a name for themselves here in the west. Mars Shinshu is certainly one of those can’t-miss gems—a distillery with rising popularity that’s actually been making whisky since 1949. The Shinshu Iawai blended selection is noted as an excellent introduction for Americans to the wonders of Japanese whisky, because it excellently mimics the American and Scottish flavors we know and love. But don’t let its familiar taste and fair price tag fool you. This is high-quality stuff, and an expression that often makes our annual “best of” lists

And, here’s a fun fact you can use to impress your friends while you’re mixing up a round of drinks: Mars Shinshu, nestled between Japan’s souring Southern Alps and towering Central Alps, is the highest distillery in Japan. 

Cocktails to try: 

Let the bold, complex flavors of this one shine in spirit-forward cocktails like a Boulevardier.  

Price point: $40-$45

Shinobu Blended Whisky

Photo of Shinobu Blended Whisky in forest setting - best Japanese whisky for cocktails

Here’s another selection that comes with a fun party fact: after aging in a mix of ex-sherry and ex-bourbon casks for a rich mix of flavors like fruit and vanilla, Shinobu is finished in Mizunura Oak, a rare oak tree found only in Japan and historically used to make Samurai swords. Expertly blended by the master blender with 50% malted barley and 50% grains, this is a beautifully balanced, award-winning whisky that packs just enough power to stand out against a few mixed ingredients in a good drink. 

Cocktails to try: 

Try a simple whisky coke with this one, or for something more elaborate mixup a classic Sidecar to make it a “Tokyo Sidecar,” with Shinobu and Yuzu juice. 

Price point: $40-$45

Hatozaki Finest Japanese Whisky

Bottle of Hatozaki Finest Japanese Whisky against a gray background - best Japanese whisky for cocktails
Credit: Third Base Wine and Spirits

Don’t forget to sip this one neat, first, to get a true taste of 12 years barrel aged. With a minimum pure malt whisky content of 40%, this is a great premium selection for a non-premium price—great for ameatur and pro bartenders alike. This high age statement and premium malt ingredients makes Hakozaki Finest rich in flavor while satisfyingly light and smooth on the palate.  

Cocktails to try: 

This is another great one for a simple highball, to compliment but not overpower its smooth blend of flavors. Try a ginger highball, mixed with Ginger ale instead of plain soda water.

Price point: $50-60

Hibiki Harmony Japanese Whisky

Bottle of Hibiki Harmony on a gray background - best Japanese whisky for cocktails
Credit: Third Base Wine and Spirits

Nikka Coffey Grain Whisky

Bottle of Nikka Coffey Whisky next to the box with shelves of whisky in the background - best Japanese whisky for cocktails
Credit: Mizunara the Shop

It simply wouldn’t be a best of list without representing both Japanese whisky juggernauts, Suntory, and now Nikka. Another selection from our personal favorites here at the Japanese whisky blog, Nikka Coffey Grain whisky is as unique as it is approachable.  

Know that Coffey is not just a cool way to spell Coffee – this whisky is distilled in specialized, old-time stills called Coffey Stills, named after the man release from Suntory’s top-producer counterpart Nikka is made with special stills called Coffey stills, designed by a man named Aeneas Coffey in 1830. This one, the counterpart to Nikka Coffey Malt, is made from a mix of grains, like most commonly corn. Grain is cheaper and more available than pure malt, which makes this whisky more affordable and accessible to you, while giving it a lighter, slightly sweeter taste that’s perfect for mixing up. 

Cocktails to try: 

This is a top Japanese counterpart for Bourbon, so mix this with anything you’d put bourbon in. You certainly can’t go wrong with a classic old fashioned. 

Price point: $55-65

A hand pours a shaker into a whisky glass surrounded by garnishes, ingredients and candles - best Japanese whisky for cocktails

Get the shaker, stirrer and whisky glasses out. 

And then grab one (or many!) of these Japanese whisky recommendations for when you’re craving a cocktail or two. For a few fun and creative Japanese-inspired recipes, check out our list here.