39 Japanese Drinks You Should Know: Spirits | Cocktails | Wine | Beer | No-Alcohol

Let’s go on a journey through the flavors of Japanese drinks! From traditional spirits and unique cocktails to a wide variety of beers, wines, and both hot and cold non-alcoholic beverages, I’m sure you’ll find your perfect sip.

Whether you’re exploring the depths of Japanese whiskies, savoring artisanal brews, or refreshing with a non-alcoholic treat, this guide is your ultimate companion to the diverse and vibrant world of Japanese drinks. >>>

1.) Japanese Spirits

1.1.) Japanese Liquor

Japanese liquor showcases a diversity that spans from the globally acclaimed Japanese whisky to the traditional spirits like shochu and awamori, each offering a unique insight into Japan’s rich cultural heritage and meticulous craftsmanship.

1. Japanese Whisky

Japanese whiskies, such as Yamazaki and Hibiki, are renowned for their smooth, refined flavors, often drawing comparisons to Scotch whisky but with a distinct Japanese character.

  • Yamazaki: Japan’s first malt whisky distillery, Yamazaki is known for its single malt whiskies, characterized by a rich, fruity aroma and a smooth finish.
  • Hakushu: Nestled in the Japanese Alps, Hakushu is celebrated for its fresh, herbal, and slightly smoky single malt whiskies, reflecting the pristine forest surroundings.
  • Nikka: With diverse distilleries like Yoichi and Miyagikyo, Nikka offers a range of whiskies from rich and peaty to soft and floral, showcasing the breadth of Japanese whisky craftsmanship.
  • Hibiki: A premium blended whisky known for its harmony of flavors, Hibiki is lauded for its complexity and mellowness, often considered an art form in a glass.

2. Shochu

Shochu, a versatile Japanese spirit typically distilled from barley, sweet potatoes, or rice, presents a range of flavors from earthy to sweet, reflecting the ingredients from which they’re made.

  • Barley Shochu: Distilled from barley, this shochu variant is known for its smooth, clean taste with a subtle sweetness, making it a versatile spirit for sipping or mixing.
  • Sweet Potato Shochu (Imo-jochu): Made from sweet potatoes, Imo-jochu is rich and robust, with a distinct earthy sweetness and a deep, complex flavor profile.
  • Rice Shochu (Kome-jochu): Kome-jochu, distilled from rice, offers a mild, slightly sweet flavor, often enjoyed for its smoothness and purity.
  • Buckwheat Shochu (Soba Shochu): Soba Shochu, made from buckwheat, stands out with its nutty, earthy flavors, offering a unique taste among Japanese spirits.

3. Awamori

Awamori, from the Ryukyu Islands, offers a glimpse into a unique regional tradition, with a robust flavor profile.

  • Ryukyuan Awamori: Originating from Okinawa, Awamori is a spirit distilled from rice and black koji mold (rice malt), known for its potent strength and distinctive flavor, a testament to the rich history of the Ryukyu Kingdom.

4. Japanese Gin, Vodka & Rum

Modern Japanese spirits like gin, vodka and rum incorporate local ingredients and botanicals, providing a refreshing twist on classic spirits.

  • Japanese Gin
    • Roku Gin: Roku Gin is infused with six Japanese botanicals, including cherry blossom and green tea, offering a harmonious blend of traditional gin complexity with a Japanese twist.
    • Ki No Bi Gin: Kyoto’s first craft gin distillery, Ki No Bi, uses a selection of Japanese botanicals to create a gin that’s both balanced and intensely aromatic, reflecting the beauty of Kyoto.
  • Japanese Vodka
    • Eiko Vodka: Eiko Vodka is distinguished by its clarity and smoothness, utilizing Japan’s pristine waters and craftsmanship to create a premium vodka experience.
  • Japanese Rum
    • Ryoma Rum: Crafted using locally grown sugarcane, Ryoma Rum offers a unique Japanese take on rum, with a smooth, slightly sweet profile that’s rich in character.

1.2.) Japanese Liqueurs

1.2.1.) Fruit Liqueurs

5. Umeshu (Plum Liqueur)
  • Sweet, fruity, and aromatic

Umeshu, a cherished plum liqueur from Japan, delights with its sweet, fruity essence and deep, aromatic flavor. Made by steeping unripe ume plums in alcohol and sugar, this liqueur is a versatile drink, enjoyed on the rocks, mixed, or as part of a dessert. Its unique taste captures the essence of Japanese plums, making it a favorite among connoisseurs of Japanese spirits.

6. Yuzushu (Yuzu Liqueur)
  • Citrusy, tart, and refreshing

Yuzushu stands out with its vibrant citrusy flavor, derived from the Japanese yuzu fruit. This liqueur combines the tartness of yuzu with a subtle sweetness, offering a refreshing and aromatic drinking experience. It’s perfect for those looking to explore unique flavors in Japanese liqueurs, often served chilled or as a cocktail ingredient.

7. Momo Liqueur (Peach Liqueur)
  • Sweet, peachy, and smooth

Momo Liqueur, made from succulent Japanese peaches, offers a sweet, smooth, and irresistibly peachy flavor profile. This delightful liqueur is a testament to the richness of Japan’s fruit produce, providing a gentle, floral taste that’s perfect for sipping neat or enhancing a variety of cocktails with its luscious essence.

8. Kumquat Liqueur
  • Tangy, sweet, and exotic

Kumquat Liqueur introduces an exotic twist with its tangy yet sweet flavor, derived from the small, orange citrus fruits native to Asia. This unique liqueur captures the essence of kumquats, offering a delightful balance of sweetness and citrus sharpness, making it a fascinating addition to the Japanese liqueur family.

1.2.2.) Botanical Liqueurs (Herbal/Floral/Spiced/Tea)

9. Sakura Liqueur
  • Floral, delicate, and aromatic liqueur with cherry blossom flavor

Sakura Liqueur embodies the fleeting beauty of cherry blossoms in its delicate, floral, and subtly sweet flavor. This aromatic liqueur is a celebration of spring in Japan, offering a taste that’s as enchanting as the sight of blooming sakura. It’s a favorite for special occasions and adds a touch of elegance to any drink.

10. Shiso Liqueur
  • Herbaceous, minty, grassy and unique

Liqueurs made from shiso, which is an aromatic herb, provide an intriguing herbaceous profile, thanks to the distinctive taste of shiso leaves. These liqueurs offer unique blends of flavors, often reminiscent of mint and basil, with subtle hints of citrus and spices like cinnamon, making it a bold choice for those looking to explore the herbal side of Japanese liqueurs.

11. Ginger Liqueur
  • Spicy, warming, and invigorating

Ginger Liqueur from Japan offers a spicy, warming experience with its robust ginger flavor. This invigorating liqueur captures the essence of ginger’s natural heat and piquancy, making it an excellent choice for sipping neat, as a digestif, or as a spicy kick to cocktails, embodying the versatility of Japanese ingredients.

12. Matcha Liqueur
  • Rich, green tea, and velvety

Matcha Liqueur brings the revered taste of matcha green tea into the realm of spirits, offering a rich, velvety texture combined with the deep, umami-packed flavor of matcha. This liqueur is a modern take on traditional Japanese tea culture, perfect for those who appreciate the ceremonial aspects of matcha in a more indulgent form.

2.) Japanese Cocktails & Mixed Alcoholic Drinks

2.1.) Japanese Cocktails & Mixed Drinks

13. Sake Martini

  • Refined blend of sake and vermouth

The Sake Martini is an elegant reinterpretation of the classic martini, skillfully combining dry sake with a hint of vermouth and garnished with a lemon twist or cucumber slice. This cocktail offers a silky, nuanced flavor profile, marked by the delicate floral and umami notes of the sake, contrasted with the herbal undertones of vermouth. Its clear, sleek appearance and refined aroma make it a sophisticated choice for martini aficionados seeking a touch of Japanese finesse.

14. Umeshu Sour

  • Umeshu, citrus, and a hint of sweetness

Umeshu Sour artfully marries the rich, sweet depth of umeshu plum liqueur with the bright acidity of fresh lemon juice, complemented by a dash of simple syrup to balance the tartness. Shaken over ice and often served with a plum garnish, this cocktail presents a harmonious blend of sweet, sour, and fruity flavors, with a fragrant aroma and a deep amber hue that entices the senses.

15. Sakura Martini

  • Cherry blossom-infused elegance

The Sakura Martini embodies springtime in Japan, infusing the classic martini with the subtle, floral essence of sakura (cherry blossoms). Vodka or gin forms the base of this delicate cocktail, with sakura liqueur or syrup providing a gentle floral sweetness. The drink is often adorned with a sakura flower or petal, offering a visually stunning presentation that complements its light, floral aroma and soft pink hue.

16. Yuzu Martini

  • Tangy yuzu with a vodka base

The Yuzu Martini offers a refreshing twist on the traditional martini, spotlighting the distinctively tangy and aromatic flavor of yuzu citrus. Mixed with premium vodka and a touch of yuzu juice or liqueur, this cocktail is shaken to perfection and typically garnished with a twist of yuzu peel, resulting in a vibrant, zesty drink with a clear, inviting appearance and a citrus-forward aroma that’s both invigorating and sophisticated.

17. Shiso Mojito

  • Shiso, rum, and effervescence

The Shiso Mojito reinvents the classic Cuban cocktail with a distinctly Japanese twist, substituting mint with shiso leaves for an herbaceous kick. Muddled shiso, white rum, lime juice, and simple syrup are topped with a splash of soda water, creating a refreshingly herbal and slightly tart cocktail. Its vibrant green hue, courtesy of the shiso, and the fizzy, refreshing finish make it a visually appealing and palate-cleansing choice.

18. Umeshu Spritz

  • Sparkling, umeshu, with an orange twist

The Umeshu Spritz combines the luscious sweetness of umeshu plum liqueur with the crisp effervescence of sparkling wine or soda, creating a light, bubbly cocktail. A splash of club soda adds a refreshing fizz, while a slice of orange or a plum garnish enhances the drink’s fruity aroma and adds a pop of color. This spritz variant is celebrated for its balanced sweetness and vibrant effervescence, making it an ideal choice for festive occasions or a relaxing evening.

19. Shochu Tonic

  • Clean, crisp, and revitalizing

Shochu Tonic is a simple yet revitalizing cocktail, combining the clean, crisp taste of shochu with the quinine-laced tonic water. This drink is favored for its refreshing qualities, making it an ideal choice for a light, invigorating cocktail.

20. Matcha Beer

  • Unique, earthy, and frothy

Matcha Beer is an innovative fusion that combines the earthy depth of matcha green tea with the frothy, refreshing character of beer. This drink is a bold choice for those looking to explore the creative intersections of traditional Japanese flavors and popular beverages.

2.2.) Hot Japanese Alcoholic Beverages

21. Hot Sake (Atsukan)

  • Warm, soothing, and traditional

Hot Sake, or Atsukan, offers a warm, soothing embrace, embodying the traditional way of enjoying sake. This beverage is ideal for cold evenings, providing a comforting warmth that highlights the sake’s flavors in a cozy, inviting manner.

22. Hot Umeshu

  • Warm plum-flavored beverage with a kick

Hot Umeshu brings the sweet, fruity flavors of plum liqueur to a comforting temperature, offering a warm, soothing drink. It’s a perfect choice for those seeking a sweet, warming beverage that combines traditional Japanese liqueur with the cozy comfort of a hot drink.

23. Oyuwari

  • Shochu diluted with hot water

Oyuwari is a traditional way of enjoying shochu, where the spirit is diluted with hot water, resulting in a smooth, warm drink that emphasizes the shochu’s flavors in a gentle, soothing manner. It’s ideal for savoring the subtleties of shochu in a relaxed, warming setting.

3.) Japanese Brewed & Fermented Alcoholic Beverages

3.1.) Japanese Wine

Japanese wines are gaining global recognition for their unique varieties and quality, particularly those made from the Koshu grape, indigenous to Japan. Koshu wines are known for their crisp acidity and citrus notes, reflecting the country’s terroir.

Other fruit wines, like plum, yuzu, and peach, showcase Japan’s rich tradition of fruit cultivation, offering a range of sweet to tart flavors. These wines are often enjoyed as aperitifs or paired with traditional Japanese cuisine, highlighting the versatility of Japanese winemaking.

24. Japanese Grape Wine

  • Koshu Wine: Light, crisp, with citrus undertones, Koshu is Japan’s signature grape, producing elegant white wines that pair well with sushi.
  • Yamabudo Wine: Made from wild mountain grapes, this wine offers a rare taste with a mix of sweet and tart flavors, reflecting Japan’s diverse flora.

25. Japanese Fruit Wine

  • Plum Wine (Umeshu): Sweet and aromatic, made from Japanese ume plums, often enjoyed on the rocks or in cocktails for its rich, fruity flavor.
  • Yuzu Wine: Tart and fragrant, crafted from the aromatic yuzu fruit, offering a refreshing citrus flavor unique to Japanese fruit wines.
  • Peach Wine: Sweet and fragrant, capturing the essence of Japanese peaches, perfect for dessert pairings or light summer sipping.

3.2.) Japanese Beer

Japanese beer is celebrated for its craftsmanship and variety, from the crisp and refreshing lagers of major brands to the innovative flavors of craft beers. Major breweries like Asahi, Kirin, and Sapporo are known for their consistent quality and clean taste, while craft breweries like Hitachino Nest and Yona Yona Ale push the boundaries with unique ingredients and brewing techniques. Seasonal craft beers often incorporate local flavors like sakura, yuzu, and wasabi, offering a taste of Japan’s seasons in every sip.

26. Major Japanese Beer Brands

  • Asahi: Known for its “Super Dry” beer, Asahi offers a crisp, refreshing lager that’s become synonymous with Japanese beer worldwide.
  • Kirin: Offers a range of beers, but its Ichiban Shibori, a first-press beer, is renowned for its pure, clean taste.
  • Sapporo: One of Japan’s oldest brands, Sapporo is celebrated for its rich, malty flavor and golden hue.
  • Suntory: While known for whisky, Suntory also produces premium beers with a focus on quality ingredients and brewing artistry.

27. Craft Japanese Beers

  • Hitachino Nest: A leading craft brewery known for its White Ale, offering complex flavors with hints of spices and citrus.
  • Yona Yona Ale: A popular pale ale from Yo-Ho Brewing Company, known for its balanced hoppy flavor and accessibility.
  • Seasonal Craft Beers: Incorporate unique Japanese ingredients (e.g., sakura, yuzu, wasabi), offering a rotating taste experience that reflects the country’s diverse agricultural bounty.

3.3.) Other Japanese Brewed & Fermented Alcoholic Drinks

Sake, Japan’s traditional rice wine, is a cornerstone of Japanese culture, with a brewing process that’s been refined over centuries. Varieties like Junmai, Ginjo, and Daiginjo represent different grades of sake, based on rice polishing ratios and brewing methods, each offering a unique taste profile from umami-rich to fruity and floral.

Amazake, a low-alcohol or non-alcoholic fermented rice drink, is enjoyed for its sweet, creamy taste. Doburoku, akin to unfiltered sake, and Taru Sake, aged in cedar barrels, showcase the diversity and rich heritage of Japanese brewing.

28. Sake (Nihonshu)

  • Junmai Sake: Pure rice sake with no added alcohol, offering a full-bodied taste and rich rice flavor, perfect for a wide range of Japanese dishes.
  • Ginjo Sake: Known for its fragrant, fruity aroma and refined flavor, Ginjo is made with rice polished to at least 60%, resulting in a lighter, more aromatic sake.
  • Daiginjo Sake: The pinnacle of sake brewing, Daiginjo is made with rice polished to at least 50%, offering an elegant, complex flavor profile with a silky smooth finish.

29. Other Japanese Brews

  • Amazake: A sweet, non-alcoholic drink made from fermented rice, often consumed as a healthful tonic or a natural sweetener in Japanese cuisine.
  • Doburoku: Similar to homemade sake, this cloudy, unfiltered sake offers a rustic, robust flavor, often enjoyed during festivals.
  • Taru Sake: Aged in cedar barrels, Taru Sake is known for its refreshing, woody aroma and smooth taste, a traditional favorite in Japan.

4.) Japanese Non-Alcoholic Beverages

4.1.) Cold Non-Alcoholic Japanese Beverages

30. Ramune

  • Japanese lemonade with a unique bottle

Ramune is a classic Japanese carbonated soft drink known for its sweet flavor and distinctive glass bottle sealed with a marble. Its fizzy, refreshing taste makes it a favorite among all ages, especially during summer. The original flavor of ramune is lemon-lime but the soft drink is now available in many other variations, including melon, orange and strawberry.

31. Non-alcoholic Umeshu

  • Sweet, plum-flavored, non-alcoholic

Non-alcoholic Umeshu offers the sweet and fruity flavor of traditional plum liqueur without the alcohol, making it a popular choice for those seeking the taste of umeshu in a more inclusive form.

32. Calpis

  • Tangy, sweet, fermented milk drink

Calpis is a unique, slightly tangy beverage made from fermented milk, known for its distinctive sweet flavor. Often consumed as a refreshing summer drink, it can be served watered down or as a soda.

33. Aloe Vera Drinks

  • Refreshing, light, with aloe pieces

Aloe vera drinks are known for their refreshing taste and health benefits, often containing real pieces of aloe vera. They provide a light, slightly sweet hydration option with a unique texture.

34. Yuzu Soda

  • Citrusy, tangy, and refreshing

Yuzu soda combines the tart, aromatic flavor of yuzu citrus with the effervescence of soda, creating a refreshing and flavorful drink that captures the essence of Japanese citrus.

35. Shiso Juice

  • Herbal, refreshing, with a hint of mint

Shiso Juice is a refreshing herbal drink made from the leaves of the shiso plant, offering a flavor that’s both unique and reminiscent of mint, adding a refreshing twist to the Japanese non-alcoholic beverage selection.

36. Melon Soda

  • Bright, sweet, and melon-flavored

Melon Soda is a vibrant, brightly colored soft drink with a sweet, refreshing melon taste. Popular in Japanese cafes and restaurants, it’s often served with a scoop of ice cream on top for a special treat.

37. Japanese Iced Tea

  • Varied flavors, from roasted to sweet

Japanese Iced Tea includes a variety of flavors like Sencha, Hojicha, and Genmaicha, offering everything from the classic grassy notes of green tea to the sweet, roasted flavors of brown rice tea.

4.2.) Hot Non-Alcoholic Japanese Beverages

4.2.1.) Japanese Tea

Japanese tea is a cornerstone of Japanese culture, renowned for its diversity, ranging from the grassy freshness of Sencha to the umami-rich Matcha. Each variety, including Gyokuro, Hojicha, and Genmaicha, offers a unique taste profile shaped by distinct production methods, regions, and ingredients. These teas are celebrated not just for their flavors but also for their ceremonial significance and health benefits, making them integral to Japanese daily life and traditions.

38. Japanese Green Tea
  • Sencha: The most popular Japanese green tea, Sencha is characterized by its delicate balance of sweetness and astringency, with a bright green color and a refreshing grassy aroma. It’s steamed immediately after picking to preserve its color and flavor.
  • Matcha: A finely ground powder made from specially shaded green tea leaves, Matcha offers a vibrant green color and a rich, creamy taste. It’s central to the Japanese tea ceremony and valued for its high antioxidant content.
  • Gyokuro: Known as the “jewel of teas,” Gyokuro is shaded before harvesting to enhance its chlorophyll content and umami flavor, resulting in a sweet and deeply flavorful tea.
  • Hojicha: Distinguished by its reddish-brown color, Hojicha is a roasted green tea with a nutty, smoky flavor and a lower caffeine content, making it a popular choice for evening consumption.
  • Genmaicha: A blend of green tea and roasted brown rice, Genmaicha is known for its mild, toasty flavor and the occasional popcorn-like popped rice grain, offering a unique taste and aroma.
39. Other Japanese Tea
  • Roasted Gobo Tea: Made from roasted burdock root, this tea has an earthy, woody flavor, and is cherished for its detoxifying properties and rich dietary fiber content.
  • Mugicha: A caffeine-free barley tea, Mugicha is enjoyed for its robust, smoky flavor and is often served cold in the summer for its cooling effect.
  • Kombucha (Kelp Tea): Not to be confused with the fermented drink, Japanese Kombucha is a kelp-based tea with a salty, umami flavor, often consumed for its health benefits and mineral content.
  • Yuzu Tea: A citrusy tea made with yuzu fruit, offering a tangy, refreshing flavor and aroma, perfect for warming up in the winter and boosting immunity.
  • Sakura Tea: Infused with pickled cherry blossoms, this tea has a gentle floral flavor and a slightly salty undertone, embodying the essence of spring in Japan.
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