What is a Chu Hai – Japan’s Favourite Drink

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.


Chu Hai Lemon Sour

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.

Japanese Bar in the 1950s

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.

Wall of Chu Hai in a convenience store

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

Chu Lo Chu Hai

Brew Dog have created their own Shochu try them together!

Brew Dog Shochu

Chu Lo Drinks – Direct to You

Pivot time:

So everyone knows that COVID 19 has cancelled the hospitality sector. Overnight around 90% of our sales dropped off. With hospitality at the heart of our business, we at Chu Lo Drinks had a long hard think and decided to make some changes.

We found that loads of our customers were missing the drinks that go with take-away and homemade East Asian Food. So it was time for a change… we have re-vamped our website and re-distributed our logistics to make sure you can still choose a Chu Lo.

How did we do it?

It’s no secret this has taken a bit of time. This is because we wanted to make sure our customer experience is on point!  We have tested the routes and even included some cheeky free delivery deals to make sure that we keep you supplied in this unprecedented situation. At last, you can now order mixed packs and cases through our online store:


Make sure you tag us in any of your Japan foody nights! We love to hear from you and see your creations.  These are some of our favourites as featured with Korean, Japanese and Chinese food.

What comes next?

All is not lost on the hospitality side. As things begin to open we are getting more and more listings as each week passes. With our supercharged logistics, we are now able to supply across the UK within days. For now, keep your eyes out for updates on stockists on our Instagram and Facebook!




Chu Lo Drinks in line for prestigious entrepreneur award in their first year

Chu Lo drinks is a Manchester Based start-up that is banishing the boring and is out to disrupt the UK Soft Drinks Market. In her first year as an entrepreneur, founder Steph Buttery has been shortlisted by the Great British Entrepreneur awards as Food and Drink Entrepreneur of the year for the North West.

During a 4 month deployment to the Far East with the Royal Navy, Steph left Japan inspired by the variety of Chu Hai sour drinks on offer. Upon her return, by comparison, she observed the lack of excitement in the UK soft drinks market. So she decided to make her own version of these Japanese classics because the way of Manchester is to make it yourself.

Chu Lo Drinks were launched last summer at a pop up on Deansgate and went on to be part of the Manchester Youth Markets.  Chu Lo Drinks were tested and finessed, prior to officially launching in November at the International Drinks Expo. At the Expo the distinctive branding went on to receive the Design Excellence Award and Steph received recognition for her efforts by being awarded the FSB Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Chu Lo drinks can now be found in venues across the UK, from Manchester to Mayfair, and has big plans for the 2021.

The Great British Entrepreneur Awards acknowledge the hard work and inspiring stories of entrepreneurs and businesses in the United Kingdom. In previous years the Awards have celebrated some outstanding entrepreneurs who have gone on to become household names. Previous winners include the founders of BrewDog, Tangle Teezer, The LAD Bible, Clearscore & The Cambridge Satchel Company.

Finals Time

This year, with face to face events challenging, the regional heats will be celebrated online on September 23rd.

“I am overwhelmed for being recognised in the Food and Drink category. The North West has so many incredible food producers and I am delighted to have been shortlisted amongst some of the best.” Steph Buttery Founder.

Founder of the Great British Entrepreneur Awards, Francesca James, said: “Given what we’ve seen over the past few months, the 2020 edition of the Great British Entrepreneur Awards is arguably the most important. Now, more than ever, it’s vital that we celebrate the achievements of the country’s entrepreneurs and their determination in the face of such adversity.”

Add to cart