Sapporo — Clear Lime

One of the things I can say about Sapporo is that their target audience is not people in their 20s. Unlike Asahi and Kirin, Sapporo makes alcohol for adults who know what alcohol is supposed to taste like and understand that a 9% beverage is not to be taken lightly … even when it's served in a 355mL can. This is certainly the case with Sapporo's Clear Lime Chu-Hi, which is about as bitter as one would expect from a drink inspired by the lime fruit. Weighing in at 9%, it's not something that kids in their early 20s should even attempt without first having a full stomach to help reduce the buzz that will come about from a single can of Sapporo's leisure drink.

Sapporo Clear Lime Chu-Hi

Today I tried one of these for the very first time and, I've got to admit, the smaller can has hit me hard. The lime flavour was very much what one would expect from a lime-based drink if they've ever had the fruit on its own and not as a drink accessory. The bitterness was incredibly refreshing. There is no sugar whatsoever in this drink. I know it's already been said, but this drink is not for people in their 20s. Younger people would like be happier with one of Suntory's "Sour" options given the sweetness of the liquor. The 99.9% vodka in this can is not to be taken lightly. A full 90 minutes after the beverage, I can still feel the buzz.

What's nice is that this can of Suntory Chu-Hi can be found for as little as 98円 at the local Apita or grocery store, with convenience stores charging about 40円 more. I chased it down with another 9% Double Lemon from Suntory, and the two compliment each other ever so slightly. Whereas the Clear Lime is quite sour and a little bitter, the Double Lemon is plain sour with a cleaner citrus taste. I'm not sure if I'll have another 9% Clear Lime, but I am very curious to know how strong the other flavours of the same label might be.

Stay tuned ….

Suntory Strong Zero — Double Lemon

One of my favourite Suntory drinks is their Strong Zero Double Lemon. Like their Double Grapefruit, this citrus drink weighs in at 9% alcohol content and goes down really smooth. While it's not nearly as flavourful as Triple Lemon, what I like about this drink is how well it pairs with a Kirin Sicilian Lemon. Having one of these before the Kirin beverage will bring out the best of both.

Suntory Strong Zero - Double Lemon

Suntory's Double Lemon can generally be found at the local grocery stores for just under 150円 and at the convenience stores for an additional 45円. The drink pairs really well with an apple pastry and I would encourage anyone in Japan to have a can of Double Lemon while enjoying an apple pie from Yamazaki Bread. The sweetness of the pie will bring out the tartness in Suntory's drink all the more.

As with the Double Grapefruit, the 9% content will hit pretty hard pretty quick, so do not drive or operate any heavy machinery after one of these.

Suntory Kiwi Sour

Previously I've looked at Suntory's Melon Sour and Cider Sour drinks, both of which were clearly designed for a younger audience in search of a sweet drink despite the name. Today I spotted キウイサワー which, if it stays true to the flavour of kiwi, should be more sour than the previous two flavours. My tongue was not at all surprised when it received a sweet, sweet alcoholic beverage. Another drink designed for young adults.

Suntory Kiwi Sour

Unlike Cider Sour, Kiwi Sour's aftertaste is much less persistent and reminds me of kiwi that's a little overripe. It's not at all unpleasant. Like many other 355mL cans reviewed on this site, Kiwi Sour can be found at grocery stores for about 98円 and at convenience stores for an additional 50円. The 3% alcohol is light enough that a person could consume a half dozen of these before feeling the effects, which makes it potentially reasonable as a lunchtime treat on Fridays for people who work in more relaxed settings.

Much like the other "Sour" drinks, this isn't something that I would reach for regularly but would enjoy from time to time if out with friends.

Suntory Cider Sour

Suntory certainly enjoys putting out bitter and sour beverages that are generally nothing of the sort, and today's treat is no different. サイダーサワー, otherwise known as Cider Sour, reminds me a great deal of ラムネ, another Japanese drink that is generally enjoyed by children. Despite being dubbed a sour drink, the cider went down incredibly smooth and left a sweet aftertaste for a number of hours1. What I liked most about this drink is that it didn't need to be accompanied by any sort of snack. Often times when I have a sour beverage, I need something salty or with a tang to offset it. This wasn't the case with Suntory's Cider Sour.

Suntory Cider Sour

As with many of the 355mL cans I review, this was found chilled and ready to enjoy at the local Apita for 98円. A six-pack can also be had for as little as 398円 so long as you don't mind cooling the cans before consuming them. Like Suntory's Melon Sour, this is clearly something designed for a much younger market. That said, the sweetness is light enough that a person could enjoy one of these while barbecuing in the park.

I might just have another one of these.

  1. Nothing could ditch the aftertaste. I had this can before a 500mL can of Suntory Double Lemon, and the aftertaste persisted. Later I had a cup of black coffee, and the aftertaste persisted. Then I brushed my teeth. Then I had dinner. Even after all of this, there was still a hint of sweet cider in my mouth. It's not at all an unpleasant taste, but it does take a while to fully dissipate.

Suntory Melon Sour

Back in the autumn of 2005 I had my very first Japanese Melon Soda at a boutique mall in Vancouver. Melon soda, as one would expect, is quite sweet and carries the flavour of musk melon. In 2005 the beverage I drank was an imported can of Suntory's メロンソーダ. Today, while on a short trek to the nearby park, I found an alcoholic version of this same drink: Suntory's Melon Sour.

Suntory Melon Sour

The first sip went down incredibly smooth, almost as though it were a soda in and of itself. While the drink is not carbonated, it carries with it the sweetness and aroma of something designed for people in their teens and early-20s. The 4% alcohol content is so low that it's almost unnoticeable, making for a drink that would go well with an adult softball league or an afternoon out with the in-laws. A person can feel a buzz if they drink enough of it, but it will be an active effort to do so.

While this drink is clearly designed for people half my age, it is something I might reach for while having a picnic or just a momentary rest in the shade. Despite its name, Melon Sour is sweet, but not so much so that it would overpower the slight tang in the aftertaste. This 355mL can was found at the local Apita for 98円 plus tax, and a 500mL can be had for 138円. Convenience stores will likely ask an extra 50円.

Suntory's Melon Sour isn't something that I would have on a daily basis, but it is certainly an enjoyable summer treat.

Suntory Grape

What would grape juice taste like with alcohol? Would it resemble a cheap wine, or something else? These were the questions I wondered after picking up Suntory's Grape, a 3% alcohol beverage in an attractively styled purple can. Turns out that whoever designed this drink clearly enjoyed grape popsicles as a kid, because this is exactly what the entire can tasted like. Smooth, flavourful, and far too sweet for someone in their 40s. That said, the beverage did remind me of summer days in my youth when my sisters and I would sit under a tree with our "Freezies" and try to finish them before the ants caught wind of the frozen sugar-water in our hands.

Suntory Grape

Unlike a lot of grape-flavoured drinks, Suntory's Grape didn't have an overpowering aftertaste. And, at 3%, this could be mistaken as something for children. The alcohol content was so slight that it didn't have any effect on me in any measurable manner. Despite the short nostalgia conjured by this drink, I don't think that I'll buy another Suntory Grape. The target demographic is clearly people much younger who are looking for something sweet that might also instigate a slight buzz.

Suntory Grape can be found at most convenience stores, though I picked this up from the nearby Apita for 98円 plus tax. As far as I could tell, there are no 500mL cans available.

Suntory Strong Zero — Triple Lemon

It's not too often that a drink will make me sit up to take notice on the first sip. Suntory's Triple Lemon caught me off guard with its lemonness and has quickly become one of my favourite 9% beverages currently offered by the company. From the moment the can opened, my nose was hit with the irresistible aroma of lemon tarts. While the drink is nowhere near as sweet as the pastry, the taste is as close an approximation as one might expect.

This offering from Suntory is going to be on the shortlist of things to enjoy from now on.

Suntory Strong Zero Triple Lemon

From what I can tell, Triple Lemon is only available in 355mL cans, which is a shame as a 500mL can is generally priced better. That said, these smaller cans can be found for 98 Yen at grocery stores and are sometimes on sale for as little as 80 Yen. If you find yourself in need of a quick buzz and have a soft spot for lemon pastries, this offering from Suntory will not disappoint.

Suntory Strong Zero Dry

TV Commercials for Suntory's Strong Zero line of Chu-hai drinks gives people the impression that there's a great deal of flavour and they'll come away refreshed with every gulp. As one would expect from marketing, reality is quite a bit different. Over the years I've tried a number of "dry" beverages from companies like Suntory, Asahi, and Kirin only to be disappointed. This drink, however, is a little different.

Suntory Strong Zero Dry

The tagline reads あまくないキレ味1 and I would agree with the first half. Strong Zero Dry has a distinctive lime flavour and tartness that would pair well with tempura or Pringles potato chips. The aftertaste, however, leaves a bit to be desired. I'm a huge fan of citrus drinks, even the artificially-flavoured ones. The lime in this drink does not strike me as lime. If anything, I'd venture that it's just plain carbonated water with alcohol in the can. Every sip just made me thirstier, which might be the point of a dry drink, but doesn't encourage a repeat buy if someone's trying to enjoy one of these on a hot day.

Given the choice between buying another one of these or a Sprite, I'd go with the latter.

500mL cans of Strong Zero Dry seem to go for around 220 Yen at convenience stores, but I picked this one up at a grocery store for 138 Yen. One thing I can say about this drink is that the alcohol did hit much faster than I've experienced with other 9% Suntory drinks. The first indications of the buzz were felt about 10 minutes after opening the can and stuck around for close to five hours. If the goal is just to have a long-lasting buzz, this will definitely do the job.

  1. Not sweet, clean taste.

Suntory Strong Zero — Double Grapefruit

Suntory puts out a large number of great drinks that can be enjoyed all year around. Not too long ago they started offering a 9% Chu-hai with a stronger citrus flavour called ダブルグレープフルーツ, or "Double Grapefruit". This has been one of my favourite drinks to enjoy when sitting in the park or taking a Shinkansen home after a day of meetings in Tokyo, as it has just the right balance of flavour and alcohol.

Suntory Strong Zero — ダブルグレープフルーツ

A 500mL can generally sells for a little over 200 Yen at the local convenience store or, if you're near a grocery store, cans can be found for as little as 138 Yen. I generally pick these up at a nearby Apita along with some sort of sweet bread to compliment the strong citrus taste.

As with all alcoholic beverages, please do not drive after having one of these. For me the buzz from a singe can becomes noticeable within 20 minutes and lasts a good two or three hours before fading.