Tokyo is a city of contrast where modern meets tradition, and this is evident in the Japanese beverages found around the city. The unique Japanese drinks not only quench your thirst but also provide a window into the rich culture and tradition of Japan. Here we talk the best Japanese drinks to experience in Tokyo.
Sake – The Infamous
Sake is a unique Japanese drink that has gained popularity worldwide. This fermented rice wine is a complex elixir that requires skill and precision to make. The flavor and aroma of sake vary depending on the rice, water, yeast, and koji used in its production. There are over 1,500 sake breweries in Japan, and Tokyo has some of the best places to experience this national drink. Sake can be enjoyed hot or cold, and each temperature brings out different flavor notes. Sipping on sake is a sensory experience that allows you to appreciate the craftsmanship and skill that goes into its production.
Shochu – A Versatile Spirit
Shochu is a distilled spirit that is often referred to as the Japanese vodka. It is made from a variety of ingredients, including sweet potatoes, barley, and rice. Shochu has a lower alcohol content than other spirits like sake or whiskey, but it packs a punch in terms of flavor. The versatility of shochu is what makes it unique. It can be enjoyed straight or mixed with other ingredients like soda or fruit juice. There are also many different types of shochu, each with its own unique flavor and aroma. Sipping on shochu is a versatile experience that can be enjoyed in many different ways.
Hoppy – A (not beer) Beer-Like Beverage
Hoppy is a beer-like beverage that is unique to Tokyo. It was created during the post-war period when beer was scarce, and people were looking for an alternative. Hoppy is made by mixing a hop-flavored concentrate with carbonated water, creating a drink that tastes like beer but without the alcohol. It is often enjoyed with a shot of shochu, creating a unique and refreshing drink. The flavor of hoppy is bitter and hoppy, just like beer. Sipping on hoppy is a quirky experience that provides a taste of Tokyo’s history. I totally thought this was an IPA when I first ordered one. How wrong I was.
Awamori – A Traditional Spirit
Awamori is a traditional Okinawan spirit that has gained popularity in Tokyo. It is made from long-grain rice and is often aged for several years, creating a unique and complex flavor. Awamori is traditionally enjoyed straight, but it can also be mixed with soda or fruit juice. The flavor of awamori is bold and complex, with hints of tropical fruit and oak. Sipping on awamori is a traditional experience that provides a unique taste of Okinawa in the heart of Tokyo.
My favorite. Umeshu, also known as plum wine, is a popular Japanese alcoholic drink that is made from ume fruit, sugar, and alcohol. It has a sweet and sour taste with a distinct fruity aroma that is highly enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. Umeshu is usually served as an after-dinner drink or aperitif and can be enjoyed straight, on the rocks, or mixed with soda or hot water.
The process of making Umeshu involves steeping the ume fruit in alcohol and sugar for several months, sometimes even up to a year. This allows the ume fruit to release its natural flavor and aroma, creating a delicious and fragrant drink. Some Umeshu makers also add herbs or spices to enhance the flavor and create a unique blend.
Umeshu is not only delicious but also has some health benefits. The ume fruit contains citric acid, which helps to stimulate digestion and prevent fatigue. It is also rich in antioxidants, which help to reduce inflammation and lower the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease.
Umeshu can be found in many restaurants, bars, and liquor stores throughout Tokyo and Japan. It is often served in small, traditional cups called choko or ochoko, which are meant to be sipped slowly and savored. If you’re looking for a unique and delicious Japanese drink to try in Tokyo, Umeshu is definitely worth a try.
Yuzu Sake – A Refreshing Twist
Yuzu sake is a refreshing and zesty drink that is perfect for those hot Tokyo summer days. Yuzu is a citrus fruit that is unique to Japan, and it is known for its refreshing flavor and aroma. Yuzu sake is made by infusing sake with yuzu juice, creating a refreshing and light drink that is perfect for any occasion. The balance of the sweetness from the sake and the tartness from the yuzu creates a refreshing twist on the traditional sake. Sipping on yuzu sake is a refreshing experience that is perfect for any season.
A Lighter touch – Green Tea
Green tea is a timeless tradition that is ingrained in Japanese culture. It is a symbol of hospitality and is often served to welcome guests. Green tea is available throughout Tokyo, from high-end tea houses to vending machines. Each type of green tea has its own distinct flavor, aroma, and health benefits. The tea leaves are carefully picked, roasted, and processed to produce tea that is rich in flavor, antioxidants, and other beneficial nutrients. Sipping on green tea is not just a refreshing experience but also a mindful one that promotes inner peace.
Matcha – A Vibrant Delight
Matcha is a vibrant green tea powder that has become a trendy drink in Tokyo. It is made by grinding high-quality green tea leaves into a fine powder. Matcha is then whisked with hot water to produce a frothy and delicious drink. Matcha is not just a drink, but a work of art. The preparation of matcha is a performance that involves precision, skill, and attention to detail. It is an experience that engages all of the senses, from the vibrant color of the drink to the soothing aroma and the smooth texture. Sipping on matcha is a delightful experience that is both refreshing and invigorating.
Nomihoudai – All you can drink
This is a gamechanger. In Japan, Nomihoudai (飲み放題) refers to an all-you-can-drink option that is commonly offered at bars and restaurants. This service allows customers to enjoy unlimited drinks for a set period of time for a fixed price. Nomihoudai is a popular way for people to socialize and have a good time without worrying about the cost of drinks.
The price of nomihoudai varies depending on the establishment and the type of drinks available. Some places charge a flat rate for a specific number of hours, while others offer different tiers of pricing based on the quality and quantity of drinks. Generally, the longer the time frame, the more expensive the price.
Once you have paid for nomihoudai, you can select your drinks from a menu or ask the server for recommendations. It is important to note that some establishments may have restrictions on the types of drinks available or limit the number of drinks per person.
Most nomihoudai services have time limits, usually ranging from 1 to 3 hours. Once the time is up, you will have to pay for additional drinks if you wish to continue. Some places may also have restrictions on the types of drinks available or may refuse service if you become too intoxicated.
Nomihoudai is commonly found at bars and izakayas (Japanese-style pubs). These establishments offer a variety of alcoholic beverages, including beer, sake, shochu, and whiskey, as well as non-alcoholic options.
Many restaurants in Japan also offer nomihoudai services, particularly those that specialize in Japanese cuisine. These establishments may offer sake and shochu pairings with their dishes or have a selection of Japanese cocktails.
Karaoke establishments are another popular place to find nomihoudai. They often have private rooms where you can sing and drink with your friends without disturbing other customers.