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Izakaya Drink Menu: Tired of Wine? Order Some Japanese Fruit Liqueurs

福島

Translated by Allie

Written by Ai Yoneda

2016.05.14

Various flavors of fruit liqueurs are produced in Japan—most notably plum, yuzu citrus, and mandarin oranges. These fruit liqueurs (kajitsushu) are also enjoyed in a variety of ways. This article will introduce popular Japanese distilled spirits and how to order this fruity beverage at an izakaya.

What kinds of beverages come to mind when thinking of fruit-based liquor? The first thing many think of is a wine made from fermented grapes. In Japan, there are various fruit liqueurs available, the most notable being plum, yuzu citrus and mandarin oranges.

Let's take a closer look at some fruit liqueurs (kajitsushu) that are popular for their smooth taste and sweetness. We'll also teach you how to order these fruity beverages at an izakaya (Japanese-style bar).

Straight, Mizuwari, or on the Rocks? How to Order Fruit Liqueurs

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There are four ways of drinking fruit liqueurs: "on the rocks" with ice cubes, "soda-wari" with club soda, "mizuwari" with cold water, or straight with no ice or water. When ordering this fruity drink at an izakaya, you'll need to say which style you'd prefer. Please try these Japanese phrases to order your beverage with confidence.

The picture above is an ice-cold mug of umeshu (plum wine) diluted with cold water. Of course, you can order it with hot water ("oyu-wari") in winter, or mixed with orange juice ("juice-wari"). This sweet-tart plum liqueur can also be added to jellies and eaten as a dessert.

In addition to izakayas, there are plenty of ways to enjoy fruit liqueurs in the comfort of home.

Top Three Fruit Liqueurs in Japan

Here are three major fruit liqueurs in Japan you'll easily find at izakayas. These top picks are well-loved by many bar-goers, so you'll surely love this lineup.

1. Umeshu: Plum Wine

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Are you familiar with any Japanese dishes made with pickled plums?

Pickled plums, or umeboshi, are usually topped on a bed of plain white rice or used as a filling in onigiri (rice balls). When first trying them, you might be overwhelmed by their sour kick. Nevertheless, the flavor of ume is a long-standing ingredient in dressings and sweets in Japan.

Umeshu is an aromatic fruit liqueur made from unripened ume plums steeped in a mixture of Japanese sake and sugar. While brand-name plum wine is aged at different lengths of time, it's typically stored for two or three years. Some products are aged for up to 20 or even 30 years! It's said that umeshu has a more mellow taste the longer it sits.

2. Yuzushu: Japanese Citrus Liqueur

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Have you ever heard of yuzu? This citrus fruit has a refreshing, sweet fragrance yet tastes quite sour.

Yuzu peel is mainly used in cooking to add color and lend its fresh scent to food. Sliced yuzu peel is often used to decorate traditional dishes while yuzu kosho is a citron pepper paste that accents Japanese cuisine.

Yuzushu is also bursting with the aroma and tart flavor of this citrus fruit. You won't be disappointed when ordering this smooth liqueur.

3. Mikanshu: Mandarin Orange Liqueur

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Mandarin oranges, or mikan, are similar to a typical orange in all respects except for their size.

Mikanshu is sweeter than yuzushu and tastes a bit like orange juice. If you're not too fond of the taste of alcohol, this fruit liqueur will be perfect for your palate.

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Additional Fruit Liqueurs to Check Out!

There are many other Japanese fruit liqueurs on the market. The lineup of standard flavors include apricots, strawberries, and blueberries with a few unusual ones, such as goya (bitter melon).

You might even find homemade liqueurs at izakayas steeped with your favorite fruit. Next time you're out for a drink, try ordering some fruit-based beverages and discover different ways to enjoy them!

The information presented in this article is based on the time it was written. Note that there may be changes in the merchandise, services, and prices that have occurred after this article was published. Please contact the facility or facilities in this article directly before visiting.