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Top 5 Drinks to Order at Izakaya

Each country has its own drinking culture. While many tourists have heard of the term izakaya, or Japanese pubs, walking into one is easier than knowing what to order.

Fear not, as this list gives you 5 of the most popular Japanese drinks to get at izakaya to help you have a good time!

1. Draft Beer

Photo by XH Ong on Flickr.

Getting a beer at an izakaya is a standard in Japan. In fact, there is the term "tori-bi", short for "toriaezu nama-beer" or "the draft beer to start off".

The really nice thing about getting a beer at an izakaya is that you know exactly what to expect. The draft beers served are provided by big-name Japanese brewers such as Asahi, Kirin, and Sapporo. Each brewer’s product differs slightly, but they all bring you the clear and crisp cold sensation to kick your night of drinking off.

2. Lemon Sour

Photo by nakashi on Flickr.

Despite the name "sour", this is essentially a very refreshing citrusy shochu or vodka-based cocktail that is very easy to enjoy. Most shops would use a lemon syrup to mix into the distilled spirit and then top it off with carbonated water. You might also find slices or wedges of lemon in the glass to add to the esthetic. Some shops even offer premium lemon sour cocktails such as ones with honey lemon or salty lemon.

This transparent cocktail is surprisingly strong, and for those who are not used to shochu, make sure to pace yourself.

3. Hoppy Set

Photo by Nesnad on Wikimedia Commons.

You may have walked by several izakaya with the sign "Hoppy" outside and wondered what it was. Hoppy is a non-alcoholic beer-like beverage that has been around since 1948. However, it is not meant to be served on its own nowadays.

Instead, ordering a Hoppy Set at an izakaya would present you with a bottle of Hoppy as well as a glass semi-filled with shochu and no ice. This is called "sanrei", referring to the three items chilled in the fridge, namely the Hoppy, the shochu, and the glass itself.

You mix the amount of Hoppy you like into the shochu to enjoy this unique mix of flavors. When you are out of shochu and/or Hoppy, you can even order extras of whichever component. The Hoppy Set is popular especially for the fact that you can get really drunk on this for under 1000 yen.

4. Baisu Sour Set

Here is another item unique to Japan but is relatively rare at izakaya. Baisu Sour is a cocktail that mixes shochu with a beautifully pink soda called the Kodama Baisu Sour. The non-alcoholic soda itself is sweet and gives off a sweet taste that resembles plum-flavoured candies.

How you drink it is similar to drinking a Hoppy Set, as you would also get a soda and a glass with shochu to mix in, with options of ordering extras available. Unfortunately, not all izakaya carry this, so if you find it on the menu one day, definitely give this a try.

5. Nihonshu (Japanese Sake)

Photo by Nahid V on Flickr

Finally, there is Japanese sake to round off the list. This drink, made from rice, is generally high in alcoholic content at somewhere between 12-20%.

Upon ordering one, the waiter would also ask you how many small cups you need. When they return, you will receive a small bottle of sake as well as some shot-glass-sized cups for you to pour the drinks into, making this the best sharable drinks to order.

It is notable that some shops also offer hot sake where the nihonshu is heated but not boiled, giving you a different sensation that warms your whole body up in the right season.

If you somehow managed to get through all the 5 drinks above and remember the night, that would be quite a feat (and no, this is not a challenge).

With the list to help you know what to order at a Japanese pub, please drink responsibly and have a good time!

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