We have made a list of types of alcoholic beverages native to Japan that you need to try! They are Yuzushu, Shochu, Chuhai, Sake, Umeshu, Momoshu, Amazake, Happoshu, Japanese whisky, and Awamori/ Find out about each Japanese alcohol beverage here!
Ever wonder what the natives of Japan enjoy to drink? If you’re looking for a unique kind of alcoholic beverage from a unique culture, then you’ve come to the right place!
Today, we will be exploring the 10 types of alcoholic beverages native to Japan.
If you’re a fan of Yuzushu, Shochu, Chuhai, Sake, Umeshu, Momoshu, Amazake, Happoshu, Japanese whisky, and Awamori then this article is perfect for you.
Read along to learn more about all of these refreshing drinks, their originating regions, the methods used to make them, their social implications, and their unique flavours.
Join us as we go on an adventure, exploring Japanese culture and all the delicious alcohol it has to offer!
Types Of Alcoholic Beneverages Native To Japan
Sake is not only a type of alcoholic beverage native to Japan but can also be considered the national drink of the country.
As such, it is loved by many and holds a high place in Japan’s culture and tradition.
Sake is created by fermenting polished rice and it has been enjoyed for over two thousand years.
Sake is often enjoyed for special occasions and can be served warm or cold.
It is known for having a subtle yet complex flavor and a range of aromas, from fruity to floral.
Some are dry, others are light and mellow and some are even complex and full-flavored. A sip of sake begs for a setting in which to be savored and appreciated.
When tasted, sake can create a gentle warming sensation in the mouth and it is often said to be more like drinking a fine wine than a regular beer or spirit.
It is an enticingly smooth kind of alcohol that pairs perfectly with food and its low level of astringency makes it a favorite in the eyes of many connoisseurs.
Japan is known the world over for its wide variety of sake, each sip giving those who try it a journey of flavor and aromas that can rarely be found in any other kind of beverage.
Sake is something to be appreciated, just like the incredible culture it comes from.
- Related: 7 Best Sake To Try In Japan
Umeshu is a type of alcoholic beverage native to Japan that is made from unripe ume (Japanese apricot) fruits, sugar, and shochu or sake wine.
Wanted to share this with you for a while now— Saharuth Vongrungrot (@SaharuthV) June 5, 2021
I discovered that I love this drink (umeshu+soda) at a teppanyaki/yakitori restaurant
Goes really well with food and allows me to enjoy minor drinking with my brothers
What is really special to me about this drink is that pic.twitter.com/5qO6SeG9bd
It has a light, fruity taste and is usually served chilled. Umeshu is one of the sweetest and most popular alcoholic drinks in Japan and can be found in practically every bar and restaurant.
Not only is it consumed as an alcoholic beverage, but it is often used as a flavoring for other traditional Japanese dishes.
Due to its sweet and tasty flavor, umeshu is a favorite beverage for Japanese people, both young and old.
It can be enjoyed on its own or with food and many people like to add a bit of umeshu to sparkling water to make a unique and refreshing fun drink.
The alcohol content of umeshu is usually around 10-15%, but some varieties reach up to 20-25% ABV.
Umeshu is also used in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies, where it is served in special glass vessels called Masu.
When it’s served during a tea ceremony, it is usually referred to as amazake, a sweet sake-based beverage.
It is also used in a variety of cooking recipes, including jams, jellies, cakes, and other desserts.
The taste of umeshu can vary depending on the type of fruit used and the amount of sugar added.
It can range from sweet and tart to sweet and light, making it a versatile beverage that can be served for any occasion. If you’re ever in Japan, be sure to try some of this traditional Japanese alcoholic beverage!
Shochu is an incredibly popular type of alcoholic beverage in Japan and is easily one of the most favored options amongst locals.
It is a distilled spirit, typically made from barley, sweet potatoes, rice, or buckwheat, and can typically range from 25% to 40% ABV.
It has a distinct, almost earthy flavor to it, thanks to the ingredients used in the production of the beverage, and can be enjoyed neat or with a variety of mixers such as soda, tomato juice, and various Japanese citruses.
Shochu has its roots in Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan’s four main islands, and many variations are produced there.
It can be aromatic, dry, and lightly flavored, or full-bodied with a rich, intense taste.
As shochu is made from a range of ingredients, it can also provide a good range of health benefits, such as anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as being a source of antidepressants.
Shochu can be enjoyed a number of ways. It’s a great choice for those who prefer a stronger, cleaner-tasting drink, and can be served cold, on the rocks, or as part of a cocktail.
It’s also a popular option to drink shochu with hot water, which is known as oyuwari.
For those looking to try something different, shochu is an excellent option to explore and explore the local culture of Japan.
4. Chu-Hi or Chūhai
Chūhai is basically a Shochu Highball
It is the perfect balance between sweet and strong and is a popular choice for summer days, especially at festivals and events throughout Japan.
A temperamental alcoholic beverage, Chu-Hi comes in many varieties and each one is unique in its own way.
The main base liquor of Chūhai is usually Shochu, a type of distilled spirit, with different varieties of flavored sodas, syrups, or other mixers added to it.
Some of the more popular Chu-Hi include the citrusy Calpis, the sweet Ramune, and the sour Fanta.
Happoshu is a type of low-malt, low-tax beer-like alcoholic beverage native to Japan!
This one was very watery. I googled it and it is a happoshu. I had to then Google that and it's a Japanese word for a 'beer' made with low malt content so it gets past a Japanese tax on beer. This Filgood is a Korean attempt at the same thing. Brewed by OB (Oriental Breweries). pic.twitter.com/IyREGRVkn3— Westie (@westiestylz) December 25, 2022
It was first created in 1994, with an aim to lower the taxes on beer while still providing the same delicious taste. This has proven to be hard to replicate, as Happoshu has its own unique taste.
It’s made from malt, corn, rice, and hops, and can range in alcohol percentage from 1.2% to 3.5%.
It’s a clear beverage and typically has a light and dry taste. The dryness is complemented by the balance of umami that it exudes due to its mix of different grains.
This makes Happoshu a great accompaniment to Japanese dishes that use strong sauces or dips.
Happoshu tends to be lighter than regular beer and is cheaper, making it a popular choice amongst the younger crowd in Japan.
You might find this in tall cans or large PET bottles and served in small cups to be enjoyed one glass at a time.
To fully appreciate the complexities of this light alcoholic beverage, head over to a good izakaya, or a noodle shop, pick yourself one, and be sure to savor every sip!
Yuzushu is an alcoholic beverage that is native to Japan and is derived from the Japanese citrus fruit called “yuzu”.
Yuzu has a unique and quite intense citrus flavor, which is quite distinct from other citrus fruits, making it a popular choice for creating traditional and modern drinks. ‘
Yuzushu is created using the juice of yuzu along with sake or shochu and brown sugar. The resulting drink is light and refreshing, with a pleasant acidic taste, and traditionally served chilled in small cups.
It is popular among fans of sake and other alcoholic drinks, and is often described as a perfect accompaniment to spicy or savoury dishes.
Yuzushu is also known as a popular drink to socialize with friends, and while it is quite strong, it’s flavour is mild enough to be enjoyed over long conversations.
Momoshu is one of the most distinctive types of alcoholic beverages native to Japan.
It is a type of liqueur made with a combination of nectarines, nagana honey, and white liquor, and has a fragrant smell and a light, sweet taste.
Momoshu has a range of alcohol strengths, usually ranging from seven to seventeen percent in alcohol content.
Originally used in ancient Japanese court ceremonies, momoshu has gone on to become a popular beverage in Japanese culture, due to its fruity flavor and sharp contrast to the stronger, more traditional alcohols like sake.
A number of companies across the country produce momoshu, both in bottles and cans, making it easily accessible to the masses.
Momoshu is a great drink to accompany meals as its sweetness is complemented by a variety of different kinds of dishes.
It has also become a popular choice if one is looking to drink socially and casually due to its relatively low alcohol content.
Plus, it looks attractive in cocktails, making it a great choice for social gatherings.
Overall, momoshu is the perfect example of a type of alcoholic beverage native to Japan that combines the traditional and modern aspects of the country’s alcohol culture.
It not only has a distinct flavor that can be enjoyed on its own, but can also be easily incorporated into social situations with friends.
Amazake is a traditional sweet alcoholic beverage of Japan, made from fermented rice.
It is a sweet, low-alcohol drink, usually containing around 1-2% alcohol content. It has a light, creamy texture and a mild, gently sweet flavor like that of rice pudding.
Amazake has been consumed in Japan for centuries, traditionally served warm with ginger and sugar as a winter beverage.
Today, it is sold as both alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions in supermarkets and convenience stores across Japan.
Amazake is made with sweet and sour koji, a type of Japanese rice yeast, mixed with boiled rice, water, and kombu seaweed, and aged in barrels.
During the fermentation process, the koji converts the starch in the boiled rice into sugars, producing a slightly alcoholic and naturally sweet beverage.
The flavor and texture vary depending on the types of ingredients used and the length of fermentation.
Amazake can be enjoyed in many different ways, including chilled or served at room temperature as a refreshing summer treat, or served warm on cold winter days.
It’s especially popular during the winter holidays where it’s often served with traditional New Year’s dishes like mochi and somen noodles.
Additionally, Amazake can be used as an ingredient in cooking, blended with fruits or foods like kinako (Japanese soy powder) for a sweet traditional treat.
9. Japanese Whisky
Japan has a selection of delightful whiskies to suit its palates. From the salty tang of Yoichi to the spiciness of the Yamazaki 12 year, Japanese whisky is a key part of the drinking culture.
Popular brands include Suntory, Nikka, and Mars. The whisky-making process for Japanese whisky is quite different from that of Scotland and other countries.
The whiskies created in Japan are characterized by their malts and blending techniques. Japanese whisky also contains a greater percentage of small grains such as corn, wheat, and rye.
Many Japanese whiskies are aged in bourbon, sherry, and sake casks. This unique approach to whisky-making has produced an extraordinary range of flavors, complexities, and aromas.
You can enjoy a variety of deliciously smooth, velvety sippers, from simple single-malts to complex blends.
With floral, fruity, spicy, smoky, and sweet notes, a sip of Japanese whisky can transport you to a world of sophistication.
Enjoy a glass of Japanese whisky neat, on the rocks, or in a highball! A highball is a Japanese whisky and soda combination, with a mix of flavors bringing out the unique characteristics of the whisky.
Whatever your preference, explore the delights of Japanese whisky and discover an intoxicating journey of tastes and aromas.
- Related: Top Japanese Whiskey Under $50 2023 | Must-Try Japanese Whiskey For Beginners and Whiskey Lovers!
The tenth and final type of alcoholic drink native to Japan is Awamori, a potently strong type of spirit.
This Okinawan specialty is made of long-grain rice, which is then fermented and distilled using a unique method unique to the Okinawan island chain.
The liquor has a range of flavors, depending on the particular type of rice used, and can even reach an alcohol by volume of up to 40%.
Because of its high potency, it is often served quite light, with as little as a single drop added to a glass of hot or cold water.
Its smoky flavor and high alcohol content make it particularly popular as an after-dinner sip, as it produces a refreshing and stimulating finish to the meal.
Some fans of Awamori point to its roots, which are believed to date back to the original settlers of Okinawa from the Asian mainland over 600 years ago.
Its traditional production process is still followed in many smaller distilleries, resulting in an incredibly special and artisanal form of liquor.
Awamori has earned a loyal following of drinkers who are passionate about the unique taste which comes from the traditional production methods.
Its unique flavor is the perfect accompaniment to many Japanese dishes, and the potent nature of the beverage ensures that it will definitely make an impression at parties.
In conclusion, Japan is home to many unique and delicious types of alcoholic beverages from all over the world, including ones that are made in Japan and also imported from other countries.
Yuzushu, Shochu, Chuhai, Sake, Umeshu, Momoshu, Amazake, Happoshu, Japanese whisky, and Awamori are all unique types of alcoholic beverages that are native to Japan and are enjoyed both domestically and internationally.
These drinks are a true celebration of Japanese culture and history and offer an incredible variety of flavors and textures that awe the mind and delight the tongue. Try them out!