All Hail the Chūhai Cocktail

We’ve made no secret of our love for the cuisine of Japan. Join us as we explore the delights of the Japanese drinks cabinet, from cocktail bar to konbini shelf. All hail the Chūhai!

Chuhai cocktail drink japaneseCans of chu-hai cocktails often found in Japanese convenience stores

When you think of Japanese drinks, you may instantly think of saké, the elegant rice wine that’s so synonymous with the country it’s known as nihonshū (Japanese alcohol) in its homeland. You may also think of the number of excellent malt whiskies, or the dry and refreshing beers. If you’re clued up, you may think of the category of liquors known as shōchū, made from rice, sweet potato, buckwheat, or other staple ingredient.

We’d like to show our appreciation for a drink that has exploded in popularity in Japan, and is now the most popular drink among women (and among the most popular for men too) - the Chūhai! The name Chūhai (チューハイ) is an abbreviation of “shōchū highball”, or shōchū with soda. While this is the basis of the drink, almost without exception the recipe calls for the addition of fresh fruit or fruit juice, often lemon, grapefruit or something equally refreshing.

Japanese nama shibori sour cocktails izakayas

Nama Shibori Sour Cocktails often found in Japanese Izakayas

This light and refreshing drink is also known as a Sour, or a nama shibori sour (生搾りサワー) in Japanese bars, or Izakaya, meaning "freshly squeezed". While traditionally (and more common in Japanese izakayas) based on shōchū, the popular convenience store versions are often made with vodka to keep the price point lower.

To add a little luxury, along with a delicious flavour profile, why not try a chūhai made with Hidden Curiosities Original or Aranami Strength? The result will be both light and complex, incredibly refreshing, not to mention very low in calories, just consisting of fruit juice, soda water and gin. In short, it’s the perfect drink for warmer weather, and perfect for making the most of the spring bounty of fresh fruit.

Lemon Sour with Aranami Strength Gin
We’re basing this on the idea that you have a lemon squeezer of some sort at home - if you have a power juicer such as a nutri-bullet or similar, then that opens your options up even further. If you have a cocktail muddler, that would work in a pinch too. We should emphasise that these are just suggestions - the beauty of a chūhai is that it’s entirely customisable, and can be adapted to what you like and what you have to hand. Whatever fruit you like, and however strong you like your drink mixed, it’s easily achieved. Just squeeze or muddle the fruit, pour juice and flesh into a glass, add ice cubes, 25ml, 35ml, or 50ml gin (depending on desired strength), and top up with soda water - easy!

With Hidden Curiosities Original - 

Raspberry & Mint - grab a cocktail muddler and bruise some mint leaves with a handful of fresh raspberries for an incredible combo.

Strawberry - fresh English strawberries make for wonderfully sweet and fresh chu-hai, with all the flavours of early summertime.

Lemon - the quintessential chu-hai that pairs perfectly with our botanical notes. No sugar means an intensely refreshing drink with almost zero calories.

Passion Fruit & Mango - head to the tropics with this delicious combination. The musky sweetness of the mango is a natural pairing for the sour and fragrant passion fruit.

Lemon sour gin cocktail nama shibori

With Hidden Curiosities Aranami -

Golden Kiwi - the green kiwi’s more fragrant cousin, the exquisite flavour brings out the best in Aranami’s botanical makeup.

Pink Grapefruit - an absolute classic, simply squeeze and serve for an unforgettable and addictive combo.

Williams Pear - an excellent garnish when sliced for an Aranami & tonic, power juice a williams pear for a subtle and delicate drink.

White Peach - aromatic, sweet and addictive, this combination never gets old for us. The gin emphasises the very best qualities of the peach.


Aranami Strength Gin Pink Grapefruit Sour Cocktail


Whether you’re channelling a quick-and-simple convenience store version for drinking in the garden, or making an elegant accompaniment to food, we suggest you try a chūhai next time. The sour, fresh flavours along with the complex botanicals of Hidden Curiosities gin are mouth-watering, and make an elegant alternative to a G&T or cold beer.

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