Various types of drinks for Your Spirit: A Guide to Japanese Alcoholic Drinks

Feb 10, 2018


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Vacation – a time for relaxing and the best way to enjoy it to have a cold beer or cocktail?

“Hanami” the tradition of drinking alcohol under the cherry blossoms -beautiful flowers of spring

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Hanami is the ever-popular flower viewing festival of Japan. Every year friends and families gather under the spring blossoms to enjoy tasty food and good drinks. Think of it as the season to drink and be merry. You will not be lacking a drinking partner when it comes to picnics under the falling petals of the Sakura trees.

Here are a few different alcoholic drinks, both traditional and mainstream, that you can try while you’re enjoying Hanami this season.

Beer

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Beer is the most popular alcoholic drink in the world, and it comes in a variety of flavors and intensities. Many who say they don’t like beer may have just not found their beer of choice. Japan has a very wide variety to choose from and even the pickiest of drinkers will (hopefully) be able to find one they love. Japan even has low-alcohol drinks called “Happoshu” that look just like beer but are cheaper, making them a good choice for those who want to save on their travel expenses.

Let us introduce to you a few beer brands that you might want to enjoy while in Japan. Try each of them to see which one you like and bring a ton of that one to your next Hanami visit!

 

General Beer

– Kirin Ichiban(キリン一番搾り)

– Asahi Super Dry (アサヒスーパードライ)

– Sapporo Kuro Label(サッポロ黒ラベル)

– Santory The Premium Malt’s(ザ プレミアム モルツ)

– Yebisu Beer(エビスビール)

 

Craft Beer

– Yona Yona Ale(よなよなエール)

– Toyko Black(東京ブラック)

– Suiyoibi No Neko(水曜日のネコ)

– Ginga Kogen Pale Ale(銀河高原ペールエール)

Sake (Nihonshu)

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Sake is probably the most well known of Japan created alcohols. Made from fermented rice, it has a higher alcohol content than most beers so make sure to not indulge too much or you might end up waking with a headache.

The great thing about Sake is that you can enjoy it either cold or warm according to your own preferences. Cold Sake is called Reishu (冷酒) and is typically enjoyed in the hot summer months whereas hot Sake, called Atsukan (熱燗), is enjoyed as a winter drink. Finding the best Sake will depend on whether you like it hot or cold. You should choose carefully since higher grade Sake should be drunk cold to enjoy the full taste, while older Sake can taste better hot.

Grades are determined by how the rice used for the Sake is milled. Rice is ‘polished’, or ground down to its core, removing the outer layers of unwanted proteins to produce cleaner Sake. The more the rice is ground down, the higher the grade of Sake.

Let us introduce some brands of Sake for you to enjoy while you are in Japan.

– Kubota(久保田)

– Koshi no Kanbai(越乃寒梅)

– Dassai(獺祭)

– Isojiman(磯自慢)

Shochu

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Shochu is an alcoholic beverage with a higher alcohol content than Sake, but with a lower alcohol content than more popular western drinks like whiskey or vodka. Distilling barley, rice or sweet potatoes usually makes Shochu. However, there are some less popular ingredients used such as brown sugar, buckwheat, and chestnut. Depending on the base ingredient, Shochu can have a different taste so it’s worth having a sip of each one to see which one you might like.

Here is a list of the most famous Shochu brands for you to try listed by ingredient:

– Barley Shochu: Kanoka(かのか)

– Sweet Potato Shochu: Kirishima(霧島)

– Rice Shochu: Hakutake(白岳)

Umeshu

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Umeshu is a Japanese alcoholic beverage that is made by soaking unripe Japanese apricots in Shochu and adding sugar, giving it a sweet taste that appeals to people who are not usually inclined to alcohol. Although probably the most common of Umeshu is made with Shochu, there are some Umeshu made with Sake and Brandy, both of which also have their own variety of different types. Thus you can get a different taste depending on the type of base as well as its variety. There is also a special type of Shochu that is pure alcohol and it’s called “White Liquor” that can be used to make Umeshu.

Here’s a list of famous brands according to base type for your pleasure:

– Shochu based: Umeman(梅萬)

– White Liquor based: Choya Sarari(さらりとした梅酒)

– Sake-based: Saika(雑賀梅酒)

– Brandy-based: Hyakunen(百年梅酒)

 

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