If you’re curious about cocktails from Japan but are confused by the way too many recipes and variants out there, we’re happy to help you walk through the most popular Japanese Cocktails that you should try out!
Weekend bar hangouts with friends and colleagues and late-night chill time with your significant other would not be complete without your favorite cocktail mix.
Depending on your preferred mix, cocktails can combine the right kind of sweetness, sourness, spiciness, and chill to the bite present in the liquor of your choice.
This makes these drinks very famous in gatherings in bars, clubs, and other functions and at home after a hectic day.
However, the popularity of cocktail drinks also extends to mixologists who craft a wide array of cocktail drinks for patrons and are willing to explore other possibilities in creating precise yet innovative cocktail mixes.
Through these innovations, cocktail lovers and enthusiasts have been able to discover other kinds of alcoholic mixes, particularly from countries across the Pacific.
These include cocktails from Japan that originated as part of their cultural heritage or that put an oriental twist to the Western-style mixes we know and love.
In fact, these cocktails are distinctively Japanese with the mixing of drinks such as sake (fermented rice wine), shōchū (distilled Japanese alcoholic liquor), chūhai (variation of Shōchū but with soda water), and awamori (distilled from long-grained varieties of Indica rice).
Some unique and fun cocktails from our list are the Tokyo Mule, Yuzu Chūhai, and Ginger Saketini.
The last one could even be the most challenging cocktail treat out there! #13
Listed below are 13 Japanese cocktails that should be worthy of your attention!
Haibōru is a Japanese spin on the tall and icy classic Highball that combines whiskey and soda water.
Yet, what separates the Japanese Highball from similar cocktail drinks is the use of Japanese whiskeys that have a drier, smokier flavor, more similar to Scottish than American whiskeys.
Nonetheless, the Haibōru still retains the original method in crafting the Highball – two to three ounces of spirits as the base and four to six ounces of soda water on top.
Variations of the Japanese Highball are available for consumption, including the popular chūhai, an abbreviated term for the “shōchū highball.”
2. Tokyo Mule
Do you have a soft spot for the Moscow Mule?
Well, Japan has its version of the ever-popular tangy and spicy Russian cocktail called the Tokyo Mule!
Much like the classic mule, this cocktail drink combines vodka, ginger beer or syrup, and juices from cucumber and lime.
However, the Tokyo Mule brings a more specific taste with the addition of classic Japanese spirits such as sake and shōchū.
Moscow Mule will always be a favorite among enthusiasts and lovers of cocktails, but those who want to try an Asian version of the Russian cocktail classic should check out the Tokyo Mule.
3. Yuzu Mule
Yuzu Mule is another Japanese variation of the Moscow Mule with a more regional flavor.
Identical to the Tokyo Mule, this one mixes sake or shōchū with ingredients typical to the classic Russian Mule, such as vodka, ginger beer, and sour cucumber and lime juices.
Yet, the Yuzu Mule specifically uses the Yuzu fruit, often produced in the Shikoku islands, as a substitute for cucumber and lime.
You don’t need to be bothered though, as the citrus flavor of the Yuzu will still remind you of the Moscow Mule, but with a unique taste and fragrant aroma brought by its juice.
People from the Okinawa Prefecture take pride in their very own awamori, which is similar to shōchū, except that it is made from the long-grain varieties of Indica rice.
Awamori is also a crucial ingredient in Kinbato, Okinawa’s take on the Mexican cocktail drink known as Paloma.
Instead of tequila, lime, and grapefruit, which are typical ingredients for the Paloma, Kinbato uses awamori for its spirit, and Shikuwasa, or Okinawan lime, as a substitute for both lime and grapefruit.
Kinbato will remind you of the sharp, acidic flavor of the classic Paloma, but the ingredients make this drink distinctively Okinawan.
5. Ginza Mary
Named after a famed shopping and nightclub district in Tokyo, the Ginza Mary is just as spicy, salty, and bloody red as the classic Bloody Mary.
Much like the original mix, the Ginza Mary combines the bite of vodka with the salty, tangy flavors of tomato juice, lemon extract, and soy sauce, the spicy pinch of Tabasco Sauce, and black pepper to taste.
However, Ginza Mary will never be complete without the distinct Japanese flavors of sake or shōchū.
Ginza Mary is a treat for lovers of spicy cocktail drinks who wish to try a more Asian spin on the original Bloody Mary.
Based on the low-alcohol, citrus cocktail drink known as the Sidecar, the Japanese Sidecar exchanges cognac with shōchū as its spirit.
Depending on your preferred Sidecar mix, you can craft the Japanese Sidecar with equal parts of shōchū, triple sec, and lemon juice.
Despite the use of the shōchū instead of the classic cognac, the Japanese version of the Sidecar is a step-up to the original mix we all know and love.
7. Yuzu Chūhai
Can’t get enough of the Yuzu fruit?
Here’s a nice, fizzy cocktail drink that combines shōchū with fragrant Yuzu juice, simply called the Yuzu Chūhai.
This cocktail treat is one of the many variants of the popular chūhai, which exists alongside similar chūhai mixes, including the Lemon Chūhai.
These drinks are also affordable for public consumption and are often served in local Japanese pubs known as “izakaya,” although canned Yuzu Chūhai beverages are also available in stores.
8. Japanese 75
The cold yet classy French 75 cocktail is known to have an equally sweet, citrusy, and punchy taste, brought by gin, champagne, lemon juice, and sugary syrup.
In response, the Japanese folk has crafted their version of the French 75 cocktail, known as Japanese 75 or French 75 Type J.
For this cocktail drink, gin is replaced by shōchū, bringing a much more oriental taste to the original 75 mixes.
While nothing can beat the French 75, the Japanese 75’s distinct flavor adds a different kind of classy to the beloved 75 cocktails.
Do you want a pinch of spice over your sweet and smoky cocktail drink?
The Nippon Cocktail is attributed to Italian mixologist Guiseppe Gallo.
Still, the combination of Japanese whiskey, ginger liqueur, and sweet vermouth in the mix makes this cocktail drink very classy and distinctively Japanese.
Best served chilled, this cocktail treat will leave a balanced taste of sweetness and spice on your palate.
10. Lemon Chūhai
Lemon Chūhai, also known as Lemon Sour, is one of the most famed alcoholic drinks in Japan, offering an affordable, fizzy, and tangy drink to every patron in Izakayas.
Categorized as a variation of the Haibōru, the Lemon Chūhai doesn’t use Japanese whiskey for its alcoholic base.
Instead, shōchū is mixed with lemon-flavored carbonated water, although it could also come in other fruity flavors, such as apple, grapefruit, lime, peaches, and more.
Apart from Izakayas, canned Lemon Chūhai is readily available, along with other flavored chūhai variants.
Oolong-Hai is a tea and highball cocktail mix that combines shōchū with oolong tea.
For starters, oolong tea is a famed herbal drink made from oxidized leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, the same plant that is sourced to make green tea and black tea, among others.
Tea and cocktails may be an unusual mix for some people.
However, the uniqueness of this combination adds to the charm that makes it distinctively Asian, setting itself apart from popular Western-style cocktails out there.
12. Ginger Saketini
Saketini is a famed cocktail drink made from the combination of sake and martini, hence the name.
This drink can come in numerous flavors and variations, such as the Ginger Saketini, which adds spice to the sharp and slightly sweet saketini through the use of ginger.
Depending on your preferred mix, you can use actual minced and peeled ginger or ginger syrup.
Either way, both of these can bring spice to your beloved saketini.
13. Sake Bomb
For this last cocktail drink, you’ll need less culinary preparation and more readiness in dealing with the Sake Bomb.
Even the name somewhat dares you to step up to the challenge.
A Sake Bomb is simply a combination of a pint of Japanese beer and a shot glass full of sake.
However, the real challenge here is the execution, which involves carefully placing the shot glass with sake over two chopsticks set on top of the pint of beer.
After that, you need to pound the table with your fists a couple of times until the shot glass falls into the pint of beer, sometimes with a chant that goes “Ichi, ni, san… Sake Bomb!”
This drink can be pretty messy, and you can even get splashed with alcohol.
However, Sake Bomb is a challenge and a thrill worth experiencing, especially at club parties and bar gatherings.
The bottom line
Japan’s famed cocktails are unique due to the inclusion of authentic Japanese liquor in western-style mixes that most people are familiar with.
However, these drinks are also similar to the alcoholic mixes that we know as these require precision and skill in balancing the various tastes and flavors that make these drinks enjoyable to consume.
If you happen to travel to nightclub districts and local communities in Japan or happen to have the ingredients at home, you should experience the unique tastes of Japan’s cocktails.
Through these, you’ll not just enjoy the harmonious flavors of these cocktail drinks, but also you’ll be able to appreciate the culture and the way of life present in the fascinating country of Japan!
- Haibōru (Japanese Highball)
- Tokyo Mule
- Yuzu Mule
- Ginza Mary
- The Japanese Sidecar
- Yuzu Chūhai
- Japanese 75
- Nippon Cocktail
- Lemon Chūhai
- Ginger Saketini
- Sake Bomb
- Choose your favorite recipe from our list of Japanese Cocktails!
- Wave your magic wand to make it your own special recipe!
- Leave a comment on our Facebook page and share your new drink.