How to navigate the Japanese Izakayas drink menu so you don’t look like a noob – Mothership.SG


Disclaimer: Mothership does not encourage excessive alcohol consumption. Please drink in moderation and follow the recommended alcohol guidelines.

If you’ve ever walked into a Japanese izakaya, you might find the following scenario relevant.

You walk through the curtains, feeling like a confident Japanese employee, ready to grab some snacks and have a few drinks after a day’s work.

You browse the drink menu and see the usual suspects – Sake, Umeshu. But wait, what are all these other things on the drink menu?

Shochu? Chu-hi? What are these? You think about yourself while the waiter waits patiently next door. Suddenly you don’t feel so confident anymore.

We haveshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!.

Here are some less common alcoholic drinks you’ll find on a typical izakaya drink menu, so you don’t feel so stressed out the next time you head to one.


Shochu is similar to Chinese Shaojiu (燒酒) in a way that also requires a special heating process during distillation. It can be made from different ingredients, such as sweet potatoes, barley, rice, buckwheat, and even brown sugar.

By itself, the flavor of shochu is often described as nutty and earthy, although it really depends on its basic ingredient and how many times it has been distilled.

Its high alcohol content of 25 to 45 percent makes it a good drink to mix with flavored drinks or fruit juices.

Photo by mateusz-feliksik / Unsplash


If you like the taste of whiskey, you will probably also like the taste of highball. A blend of whiskey and soda, highball is one of the favorite drinks of Japanese workers because of its refreshing flavor.

Photo by Beam Suntory

Taste-wise, it has a stronger alcohol flavor and is not as sweet as other alcoholic drinks, making it a great accompaniment to oily skewers.


Okay, so you remember Shochu and Highball from before? Chu-hi is basically the darling of these two drinks. Even his name is a combination of his “parent” drinks – Shoshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! and Helloghball.

If you think you’ve seen canned chu-hi in convenience stores, it’s because, well, you’ve seen it.

The premixed cocktail has grown in popularity over the years, especially among younger people, due to its wide variety of flavors and ease of finding it.

And by wide variety of flavors we mean really large – Grape, lime, lychee, yuzu, pineapple. The list goes on. Besides the extensive flavors, canned chu-hi also varies in alcohol percentage, typically three to nine percent.

Hello home

Now that we can no longer get together in groups of more than two, canned chu-hi is also an easy way to ‘drink’ with our friends from the comfort of our own home (with Netflix party and / or video calls, fine. sure ).

Drinking alone “together” will do the trick for now. But hey, at least we can drink and wear our pajamas without being judged.

We can also mix and match different chu-hi to go with different occasions.

Strong Zero draws the natural sweetness of whole fruit and has no added sugar, which makes it a little less sinful compared to sugary alcoholic drinks.

Also, who wouldn’t want to drink something made from fruit crushed by sumo wrestlers:

(Just kidding, that’s not how Strong Zeros are made.)

As the name suggests, Strong Zero is a chu-hi with a stronger kick (nine percent), making it a more festive drink that you can enjoy with your loved ones.

Photo by Olivia Lin

If you just want a cool evening, go for the Horoyoi (three percent alcohol), which is a great after-dinner drink to enjoy with desserts like pudding and mochi.

Photo by Olivia Lin

With canned chu-hi, you can now satisfy your cocktail cravings at home without having to jostle yourself in a bar.

Granted, you won’t get the full bar experience with the mixologist behind the counter and the people serving you while you’re comfortably seated, but hey, you’re also paying less than half the price you pay at a bar. for something so tasty.

Watch how relaxed this woman is at home with a Horoyoi. It could have been you:

Also, did we mention that you can wear pajamas without being judged?

Top photo by Pema Lama / Unsplash

This article sponsored in collaboration with Suntory makes this writer very happy because chu-hi is his favorite drink of all time. Legitimate.

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