More Than Just Beer! 10 Sake, Shochu, Whiskey (and More) to Try From Your Conbini!

Shopping for drinks at a Japanese convenience store? If you’re looking to explore outside the standard range of beers and sours but aren’t sure where to start, try our recommended list of 10 unique sake, shochu, whiskey, and more to get your intoxicating adventure underway!

Searching For a Delicious Drink at the Convenience Store?

The conbini liquor shelf is a treasure trove catering to all kinds of events, moods, and palates! From Korean soju to fresh sake, you’re bound to find something new and exciting each time you visit! Here are 10 recommendations that won’t disappoint!

Takara Shochu

Many are put off by Takara Shochu’s imposing aura and menacing kanji logo. Indeed, the world of shochu itself is very unwelcoming for beginners! However, shochu is generally weaker and easier on the tongue than most distilled spirits, and the difficult kanji is simply an unusual way to write “takara,” meaning treasure. 

For those willing to look past the intimidating bottles, Takara Shochu is the perfect base to make your own “chuhai” cocktails! Simply combine it with carbonated water for a dry chuhai, or add some lemon if you prefer it sweet. You’ll surely realize the hesitation towards this pleasant drink is completely unfounded! 

Lemon Sour no Moto

A trendy hit amongst Japanese partiers, the humble lemon sour is a flavor-packed way for a quick buzz. While cans are the standard choice, a concentrated lemon sour base, Lemon Sour no Moto (all four of the bottles in the picture above), provides an alternative (and cheaper) way to make your own at home!

Many of our favorite sour brands, including Suntory’s Kodawari Sakaba and Sapporo’s Koime no Lemon Sour sell concentrated forms of their product. These standard 500ml bottles are packed with a whopping 10+ cups of delicious sour goodness! Simply mix it with carbonated water, and you’re good to go! 

Kikusui Funaguchi

While conbini sake cups are often dismissed as “drunk oji-san” drinks, Kikusui’s Funaguchi cup is on a completely different level! Protected from the harsh, sake-destroying sunlight by an aluminum can, this undiluted nama-genshu sake packs a refreshing full-bodied punch! And with the ABV at a whopping 19 percent, just one or two should easily do the trick! 

While there are various sizes available, conbini regularly stock the standard 200ml can and the sparkling 270ml metal bottle. The sparkling version is particularly pleasant, especially when on-the-rocks, offering a gentle introduction into the world of stronger beverages. While these cans are often more expensive than the usual one-cup suspects, it’s a little extra for a big difference in quality!

Korean Soju

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Although it has been kicking around shelves for a while, the recent thirst for Korean soju in Japan is growing insatiable! Due in part to the sweetened versions, which include lemon, strawberry, and plum; soju brands Kyogetsu and Jinro have gone from bottom shelf to center-aisle across Japan.

Despite often boasting an ABV of 20 percent or more, soju is surprisingly easy to drink! While enjoyable enough on its own, soju blends well with water, juice, tea, carbonated water, or just about anything you can think of! This flexibility makes it a beverage anyone can enjoy—a big part of the reason behind its success! 

Mio

Aimed at promoting sake to the younger generations, Mio is an elegant low-alcohol, high-quality sparkling sake regularly found in conbini fridges. A sweet, palatable sake with fruity aromas, those wanting to dip their toes into the world of sake will unlikely find a better starting point! While a little on the pricey side for its small 300ml bottle (475 yen + tax), it’s definitely a purchase you won’t regret!  

Hakkaisan Sake

For a premium sake at your local conbini, try asking for “Hakkaisan.” Offering lovers of the finer things a classy yet affordable bottle, Hakkaisan is cherished nationwide.

Hakkaisan Shuzo, nestled in the alps of Niigata prefecture, has been brewing nihonshu with exceptional rice and water for almost 100 years. Even their cheapest bottles boast an impressive rice polishing ratio of 60%, making them just outside the premium ginjo class. With a well-balanced dryness loaded with umami, Hakkaisan is a guaranteed hit for newcomers and experts alike. 

Otoko Ume Sour 

The divisively unique flavor of super-bitter “ume” pickled Japanese plums is captured in all its mouth-puckering glory with Sapporo’s brand new Otoko Ume Sour!

The titular “Otoko Ume” is an umeboshi company notorious for producing ume-flavored products with an almost unbearable sourness. While an unusual flavor for first-timers, once you’ve gotten over the initial shock, you’ll surely be hooked! 

Despite the high ABV of 9%, the intense flavor of the ume masks any alcoholic mouth-burning tastes. It almost feels like there’s no alcohol at all! Lower 5% versions are also available for a more moderate buzz. 

Suntory Kakubin

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Aside from beers and sours, the next most eye-catching section on the conbini liquor shelf is the vast range of Japanese and imported whiskeys. 

Suntory’s Kakubin is the go-to whiskey for delicious highballs on a budget. Light and easy on the mouth, it’s a great choice for those wanting a decent drink without spending a fortune. While not particularly impressive straight or on-the-rocks, it beats out the competition on almost all fronts, and its reasonable price of 1,550 yen (+ tax) for a 700ml bottle more than makes up for it!

Hakushu/Chita Whiskey

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In addition to the cheap whiskey, most conbini stock a small selection of higher-quality premium whiskeys for special occasions. Many of these come from Suntory’s collection of distilleries, including the renowned Hakushu and Chita.

With potent herbal aromas, Hakushu, hailing from Yamanashi, can be thoroughly savored straight while also creating an intensely dynamic highball. Chita, on the other hand, has a sweeter essence with a hint of lemon best coaxed out as a highball. Both are smooth and lack any burn, making them ideal gifts for aficionados and newbies alike. 

As these aren’t your everyday whiskeys, their price is substantially steeper than their low-grade counterparts. Hakushu generally goes for over 4,200 yen while Chita is slightly easier on the wallet at around 3,800 yen. Not every conbini will stock these, so don’t always expect to find them.

Cup Wine

Wine drinkers rejoice! Cup wines have started popping up at conbini all across the country as the popularity of wine continues to rise in Japan! Offering a cheap and portable quick fix of red or white, these convenient cups offer just what you need.   

With 7-Eleven and Suntory at the reins, these handy numbers pack an intense hit, gearing you up for a big night without going overboard. While the taste and fragrance is admittedly a bit lacking, if you’re drinking wine like this, you’re probably not making tasting notes! These cups are easy to drink and affordable—what else could you ask for!

A World to Explore

From the fanciest whiskey to face-scrunching sours, the conbini liquor shelf is like a mini-bottle shop! We hope that this list of 10 drinks will lead you to expanding your tastes and learning more about Japanese drinks. For more info on Japanese sake, check out tsunagu Local’s complete guide to nihonshu! So, what will you be trying first?

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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

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