You may have seen in our Story that Chu Lo is inspired by a hugely popular Japanese cocktail called a Shochu Highball or Chu-Hai. But where did the original drink come from? Time for a lesson in Japanese drinking history!
What is a Chu Hai?
Chu Hai is the ultimate in the customisable cocktail. The 3 key ingredients are; Shochu (distilled rice spirit), fruit juice and sparkling water. The normal procedure in a bar is; asking for a base fruit flavour, choosing the strength of Shochu and finishing with soda water. Each city I went to in Japan had different flavours available depending on their region. There are also seasonal offerings using fresh ingredients.
History of Chu Hai
The need for a highball cocktail came about after the Second World War. At this time Japan found itself in a depression that massively reduced supplies of ingredients for beer making. With the finest rice being eaten or made into Sake there was a surplus of mediocre rice. It was at this time the Japanese took inspiration from the West – Scotland specifically. The Japanese realised that distilling poor quality rice could make alcohol, which would then be watered down to create a highball. Great news! Everyone can have a drink, unfortunately, it tasted terrible! So the spirit was then mixed with Lemon juice and the Shochu Highball was created! The Chu Hai rocketed in popularity in the 80s when tourism boomed and sweeter flavours were developed.
Drinks in Japan today
Nowadays Chu Hai is the number one drink for women in Japan and slowly catching up beer to make it the alcoholic drink of choice in Japan. The popularity is because there is a choice of strength and flavour for everyone. The ready to drink cans can be found on every street corner and in every 7/11 convenience store where you are met with a wall of choice. The drink has become so popular that last year Coca Cola launched their first-ever alcoholic drink – breaking a 135-year brand identity of soft drinks. It’s important to mention that most of the canned versions are made with Vodka instead of Shochu because it keeps the price point low.
Japan Live have a breakdown of some of the craziest Chu Hai on offer:
Say hai to Chu Lo
Chu Lo drinks are designed to create the same sour fizz tang so loved across all of Japan. Instead of alcohol, we add a little citric acid which is a naturally occurring flavour that gives the drinks a sour bite. We are looking to add more flavours so that one day you can have a wall of choice for Chu Lo. You can make your own Chu Hai version – just add a little Shochu or Vodka to a Chu Lo! Available at the Shop
Brew Dog have created their own Shochu try them together!