In Japan, easy-to-drink alcoholic beverages in which fruit juice, cocktails, or sodas are added to a base of spirits, such as shochu or vodka, are called "chuhai". Many variations of canned chuhai are sold at supermarkets and convenience stores. Here are 10 recommended canned chuhai in Japan that you can easily find at supermarkets and convenience stores.
1. Horoyoi (Suntory)
Horoyoi has a gentle flavor and is easy to drink, with an alcohol content of just 3%. There's an incredibly abundant variety of Horoyoi flavors to choose from. The original 14 flavors range from a fruity line-up with "Grape Sour", "Peach", and "Umeshu (plum wine) Soda", to a slightly fancy cocktail series with "Blackcurrant & Orange", "White Sour", "Iced Tea Sour", and "Cola Sour". There are also seasonal limited editions, such as "Chilled Pineapple" and "Cool Apricot". It's loads of fun being able to choose which flavor you want depending on your mood that day. The addictive "White Sour" flavor with its milky, sweet, and sour punch, was voted the most popular by fans of the Horoyoi beverages. The second most popular flavor is the "Iced Tea Sour", which has the soothing fragrance of black tea. Be sure to try these when you get the chance!
2. Hyoketsu (Kirin)
Hyoketsu is consists of a vodka base infused with fruit juice and then carbonated. The characteristic design on the can depicts the fresh flavor bursting forth from the fruit juice, the chilliness of the drink, and the exhilarating rush you get from each sip. In addition to the 8 original flavors like "Sicilian Lemon", "Grapefruit", "Peach", and "Green Apple", there are a wide variety of flavors and series such as the seasonal limited edition "Hyoketsu Series", the high-quality and luxurious "Hyoketsu Premium Series", the moderately sweet but slightly more alcoholic "Hyoketsu Strong Series", and the no sugar, purine, and artificial sweeteners added "Hyoketsu Zero Series" for health conscious drinkers. For those who haven't had Hyoketsu before, how about starting off with the classic Hyoketsu Series?
3. Strong Zero (Suntory)
This product is so popular, it triggered a boom for chuhai with high alcohol content in Japan. Strong Zero sets itself apart from the mainstream chuhai, which is typically on the sweet side with a low alcohol content. It has a 9% alcohol content and isn't sweet, so it's extremely popular with people who can really hold their liquor! However, it's popularity isn't due to just the strong alcohol content. It has a very clear, distinct flavor, and the sensation as you swallow down each gulp is immensely satisfying. Whole fruit is frozen at -196℃, then smashed into bits and steeped in alcohol, resulting in an alcoholic beverage that retains all of the acidity, sweetness, bitterness, and fragrance of the fruit. It's very popular, so you'll have many different flavors to choose from, but if you're looking for a refreshing and not-so-sweet drink, try the "Strong Zero Bitter Lemon".
4. Umesshu (Choya)
Umesshu is produced by one of the most well-known fruit liquor companies in Japan. This is a carbonated alcoholic beverage that uses umeshu (plum wine), which is made by soaking whole plums in a mixture of sugar and alcohol, then distilling the plum juice and extract. Umeshu in Japan dates back to the Edo period (1603 - 1868), and is a popular drink to consume in summer. The chuhai version of this popular drink, Umesshu, uses additive-free umeshu made with 100% domestic plums from Kishu, Wakayama. The balance between the sweet and sour plums and the fizzy carbonation of the soda is absolutely exquisite. Squeeze a bit of lemon into it for a slightly different, but delicious twist!
5. 99.99 (Sapporo)
Even though this drink (pronounced "Four Nine") has a relatively high alcohol content of 9%, it is smooth and easy to drink and has a clean taste. It's different from other chuhai with high alcohol percentages since it feels very light as it goes down, so it's highly recommended for those who don't really like the burning sensation when swallowing hard alcohol. A white birch charcoal filtration process is performed on its vodka base until it reaches a purity of 99.99%. There are many variations such as "Dry", "Lemon", and "Grapefruit", but the classic and simple "99.99 Clear Dry" is a flavor you won't get bored of, so if you're having a difficult time deciding which one to get, try this one! Once you try this high-quality vodka chuhai, you'll be completely hooked.
6. Kirin Chuhai Bitters (Kirin)
Kirin Chuhai Bitters is made with bitter liquor extracted from lemon peels and herbs. It's distinguished by its slightly bitter taste, which comes from the lemon peels. There are 3 flavors in total: "Lemon Lime", "Grapefruit", and "Lemon". Among chuhai varieties, the alcohol content is a little on the higher end at 8%, but from the first sip you'll be hooked on the refreshing sweetness and the slightly bitter aftertaste that's similar to beer. Try this canned chuhai for a moderately sweet drink!
7. Kalori (Suntory)
True to its name, Kalori is a canned chuhai with only 77 calories in each 350ml can! Depending on which type you get, some products have polyphenol or citric acid added inside, so it's popular with health conscious people and people who love to drink, but worry about the calories in their drinks. There are a total of 3 flavors: "Mediterranean Lemon", "Grape", and "White Peach", as well as seasonal limited edition products. There's also a cocktail line-up called "COCKTAIL Kalori" that is quite popular, so give it a try if you're interested.
8. Honshibori (Kirin)
Honshibori is made exclusively with fruit juice and alcohol. There's no added flavoring, acidulant, or sweeteners, so you'll be able to enjoy its pure flavors. Even though its a canned chuhai, you can tell that the fruit juice was properly squeezed from the cloudiness of the beverage, like a fruity alcohol drink prepared for you at a bar. The flavors are so powerful and delicious, it's as if the fruits are dancing around your tongue. The limited edition flavors are very popular. A flavor called "Fuyukan" (winter citrus fruits), which is made with yuzu, sudachi, and kabocha, was released for the 2018 winter season. All of the flavors are made with a lot of fruit juice, which settles at the bottom of the can. Here's a tip for when you drink Honshibori: Flip it over to spread out all that juice!
9. Calpis Sour (Asahi)
Calpis Sour is the alcoholic adaptation of "Calpis", a popular Japanese soft drink. With an alcohol content of 3%, it adds just a touch of alcohol to the sweet and sour, gentle-tasting Calpis drink. The flavors of the original base drink aren't altered, so it's a very easy-to-drink beverage that almost tastes like juice! The fruity, sweet taste of the muscat grapes match very well with the smooth Calpis in the "Muscat of Alexandria" flavor, a different, but delicious take on the plain Calpis Sour. This is a sweet and smooth drink that is recommended to those who aren't very strong drinkers!
10. Takara Shochu no Yawaraka Ochawari (Takara)
A Japanese-style chuhai that is made by diluting mellow Takara shochu with fragrant, refreshing green tea. While it's a very simple beverage, it has very deep flavor. It's not sweet, but it has a refreshing taste, so you can drink it during meals without it interfering with the flavors of your food. It's a drink that matches very well with Japanese food, so it's a great side to Japanese cuisine. If you like oolong tea, try the "Takara Shochu no Uronwari". If you like strong green tea, there's the "Takara Shochu no Koi Ochawari", which uses top quality green tea from Shizuoka Prefecture. It's quite low in calories, with no purine or sugar, so it's a great choice for those who still want to drink on a diet!
Canned chuhai are a unique Japanese product that's been developed into various flavors. It's a popular beverage for alcohol beginners and people who like to try a lot of different drinks. Most chuhai are easy to get as they're reasonably priced at around 100 JPY to 150 JPY per can (350 ml), so give them a try!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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