When traveling to Japan, visiting an izakaya is an absolute must. An izakaya is a mix between bar and restaurant and a place where many workers head to after a long working day. And similar to a pub, those places often serve snack-sized meals alongside alcoholic beverages. And Japanese Highballs like the Chuhai are a popular choice of the patrons.
A Highball is usually a simple two-ingredient cocktail. To get the best results, you need to be extra careful about the ratios and the amount of ice. Both are important to get the carbonation right. Because usually, one of the ingredients is a sparkling mixer. The Chuhai Highball, for example, is made of chilled soda water and a Japanese spirit called Shochu. And that base spirit is even hidden in the name of the long drink.
Chuhai or Chu hai is an abbreviation for Shochu and Highball, taking "chu" as the last part of Shochu and "Hi" or "High" from the term highball. That's also why you sometimes read the name written as Chuhi or Chu-hi. And if you're now wondering what Shochu is, I got you covered.
What is Shochu?
Shochu, or correctly written Shōchū, is a Japanese type of liquor. A distilled spirit that, like Soju, its cousin spirit from Korea, got its name from the Chinese term shāojiǔ (燒酒), and means "burning liquor" or "burning sake". Shochu can be made from a whole variety of ingredients like rice, barley, or brown sugar. And once considered a working-class drink, Shochu today is more popular than ever.
The ABV of this liquor is typically between 20 - 30%, but in rare cases, it can also be higher. It's typically poured into a special cup or a wine glass, so you can capture all the aromas before and while drinking.
How to make a Chuhai cocktail
Now that I have the basics covered, let's get to the Chuhai Highball. First, you should decide if you want to make a plain Chuhai or if you want to spice it. In our case, I want to flavor it with some Yuzu juice. Yuzu is a citrus fruit from Japan used in various Japanese products. -On a side note, Yuzu is also one of the botanicals Roku Gin uses to flavor its Japanese Gin.
Using a clear Collins Ice stick is the best way to chill this cocktail. But if you don't have them available, just use some regular ice cubes. Put the ice into a Highball glass and add Shochu, Yuzu juice, and syrup to taste. I skip the syrup part in our recipe as I prefer a drier Chuhai.
Yuzu is one of the most popular fruits to flavor a Chuhai. Other common juices include kiwi, Japanese plum, peach, and lime.
Stir the ingredients, then gently top up the cocktail with chilled club soda or soda water.
- 2 oz Shochu
- 1 oz Fresh Yuzu juice
- 4 oz Chilled soda water
- 1 Slice of Yuzu, lemon, or lime for garnish
- Add ice into a Highball glass and pour in Shochu and Yuzu juice.
- Stir until both ingredients are well mixed and chilled.
- Top up with chilled club soda or soda water.
- Garnish with a decorative wheel of Yuzu, lemon, or lime (optional)