Right now, the snowflakes of winter are giving way to the cherry blossoms of spring. This means it’s time to retire those hot toddies and reach for something a bit lighter. While Japan is known for its delicious traditional Japanese food, the island nation has more to offer than just sushi. In fact, Japanese culture has given us these top five Japanese drinks to enjoy on a warm, spring day.
Spring is the perfect time to serve this rice wine, preferably chilled (reishu). The national drink of Japan, sake is arguably the most famous Japanese alcohol. Sake is perfect for a night out at a sushi restaurant. It would also be a good choice for a night in at a home party. Sake comes in varying levels of styles and sweetness. Something like a sweet, high-grade Dassai 50 Junmai Daiginjo won’t break the bank.
Whisky is usually associated with Scotland. However, Japanese whisky has been making a name for itself as local distillers perfect their craft. Suntory and Yoichi are two of the most prominent companies. Serve up whisky on the rocks after a long day at work. Or you can mix soda and tonic with Nikka Coffey Malt for a popular and refreshing Japanese highball.
Surprisingly, Japan has a small but mighty wine industry. Despite challenging growing conditions, Japan produces quality plum wine (umeshu) by steeping ume fruit in alcohol and sugar. Plum wine tastes great in a cocktail. However, purists would recommend drinking it chilled – perfect on a hot, late spring afternoon.
Shochu is the national spirit of Japan. It is a clear spirit made from a variety of ingredients (including rice, barley, buckwheat or even sweet potatoes). Since it has a lower alcohol content, shochu is refreshing and easy to imbibe. Mix shochu with iced oolong tea for a perfect Japanese drink that tastes like spring in a glass.
Of course, like most nations, Japan also has a beer industry. Some drinks seek to incorporate the traditional culture with rice lagers. However, many Japanese beers are more mainstream. Kiuchi brewery, in Ibaraki prefecture, makes many delicious brews; their highly rated white ale would be a refreshing choice on a warm day.
Japan has a lot to offer with its alcoholic drinks. This includes traditional Japanese drinks like plum wine to a growing whisky industry. Let’s toast a fond farewell to the cold weather. Then we can look forward to longer days full of sake and sunshine.