As the weather starts to warm up, cocktail desires turn from heavy and dark drinks to lighter and fruiter ones. However, overly sweetened, overly fruited, overly blas√© versions are the type that give all fruit cocktails a poor reputation. That won’t do; it won’t do in America; it won’t do in Japan; it won’t do anywhere. Speaking of Japan, here’s a good on from the Land of the Rising Sun: Chuhai!

iichiko shochu

When Alice and I visited Japan (a country where she’d previously lived; it helps having someone who can make her way with the language decently well), we felt it vital to visit some izakayas. Being adept travelers, we always take it as our sacred duty to try to drink how the locals drink (and eat too, but that’s a different site entirely).

During our izakaya visits, I would demonstrate my mastery over conversational Japanese by ordering “nama biru,” which, along with my requisite disarming smile and charming demeanor, meant I usually got exactly what I was ordering (whatever their draft beer was). That being the extent of my conversational abilities (master, this guy), I wisely let Alice handle the rest.

pouring shochu

Alice, actually knowing some Japanese, tended to handle the heavy lifting of our real ordering when getting nibbles. (Protip: If anyone ever asks you if you want either okonomiyaki or takoyaki, you want it — unless it’s ‘Russian takoyaki,’ then pass.) Along with her exceptional food ordering, she tended to go with any of the varieties of Chuhai that each place had.

Chuhai is, if you’re unfamiliar, fruit juice plus shochu topped with soda water. Difficult it isn’t. Refreshing it is. As for the name? The Japanese being about as big a fan of a good portmanteau as me, combined “shochu” and “highball” to make, you guessed it Chu-Hai!

top with club soda

As for which fruit juices you can do, the sky is the limit! Though, start with the classic of lemon — it really compliments the shochu. When choosing your shochu, choose wisely young Padawan. For us, our friends over at iichiko sent us their Kurobin, so we were set with a winner. Finally, you have your soda water (or club soda) to top it off.

Lightly fruity, refreshing and tasty. Yes, the perfect spring drink.

Now, onto some Chuhai!

morgan drinking chu-hi in japan

Recipe type: Drinks
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1
  • 1 part shochu
  • 1 part fruit juice
  • 3 parts club soda
  • Glass type: Collins
  1. Extra tough this one.
  2. Steel your resolve.
  3. Add your shochu and fruit juice to your Collins with ice.
  4. Stir.
  5. Top with club soda.
  6. Drink.
  7. Kanpai!
  8. Seriously though, avoid the Russian takoyaki.