Don’t fight the fizz: Proof’s new highball machine spits out soda at five times the carbonation

A look at some of Proof’s new highballs from the Hoshizaki Highball Machine | Courtesy of Proof on Main

Soda water is a necessary commodity at any bar — from ritzy downtown lounges to unassuming neighborhood watering holes. It’s often used in a highball, the general name for a cocktail made with a spirit and a carbonated mixer that is served in a tall glass.

Often soda water is pumped in through a mixer gun behind the bar alongside fellow fizzers like tonic water, Coke, Sprite, ginger ale and others. But one Japanese company has created the ultimate soda water machine that pumps out soda with five times the carbonation of regular soda water and 1.5 times the carbonation of Champagne.

It’s called the Hoshizaki Highball Machine, and Proof on Main is the first Louisville bar to attain the $6,000 Hubble of bubble.

Beverage Director Jeff Swoboda pours from the Hoshizaki Highball Machine. | Photo by Sara Havens

Of course, we had to see this highball machine firsthand, so we hightailed it over to Proof to meet up with Beverage Director Jeff Swoboda.

Swoboda has been tinkering with the machine since it was installed in January, and he has rolled out a new highball menu based on blood type — but more on that in a bit.

Proof is one of 16 bars in the United States to have a Hoshizaki Highball Machine, and actually, there are two others in Kentucky — but they’re not in bars. Jim Beam has one at each distillery — the American Stillhouse in Clermont and the Urban Stillhouse at Louisville’s Fourth Street Live.

The Beam Suntory company helped Proof obtain and install its machine, and Swoboda returned the favor by featuring the company’s brands in his highball menu, although you’re welcome to order any bourbon or whiskey (or other liquor) you want and mix it with the super soda.

In fact, Proof is replacing its standard soda water with this new stuff, because it’s clean, crisp, cold and quite delicious. Swoboda says he’ll also use it for the bar’s house-made tonic water and shrubs, a concentrated syrup used in cocktails.

“Soda is the backbone of our program,” says Swoboda. “All of our bartenders are excited to have this machine here.”

To demonstrate its magical powers, Swoboda poured us a regular glass of soda water and a glass using this machine. The side-by-side comparison was astonishing, as the bubbles from the machine-poured soda immediately and constantly fizzed and popped, while the activity in the regular soda was more stagnant and subdued. The super soda also was more clear and cold than the regular.

Swoboda also poured us a cocktail from the machine, a Suntory Toki Japanese whisky and soda in a highball glass, with a long, clear bar of ice created specifically for Proof by local company Kentucky Straight Ice.

Obviously, the super soda is the one on the left. | Photo by Sara Havens

The whisky was expertly balanced with the soda in a perfect 1:4 ratio, which is another feature of the machine.

Because the contraption is a Japanese invention, Swoboda was inspired by that when he created Proof’s new highball menu. Much like we believe in zodiac signs to help explain our personalities or why our love lives are whacked, the Japanese believe the same about a person’s blood type.

So Swoboda’s menu is based on the positive traits associated with each blood type and features several options under each category — A, B, AB and O. And as many people, including ourselves, don’t know their blood type, he says the personality traits listed under each type are meant to signify the drink’s personality, not your own.

If you’re curious, Type A is listed as reserved, sensible, patient, responsible and cautious; Type B is passionate, active, flexible, cheerful, friendly and optimistic; Type AB is creative, calm, rational, sociable, intelligent and adaptable; and Type O is confident, ambitious, intuitive, agreeable and competitive.

By those descriptions, we must be a Type AB, but if you really want to know, you can ask your doctor or find out next time you donate blood to the Red Cross.

The Hoshizaki Highball Machine and its full menu is now available at Proof, which is located inside 21c Museum Hotel at 702 W. Main St.

This piece was updated with the correct spelling of Jeff Swoboda.