Lemon Bitter (Japanese) – レモンサワー


Degree up your lemon bitter with this crisp, citrusy and severely fizzy recipe. You solely want 4 easy components to make this tart and mildly candy Japanese shōchū highball. Plus, I’ve acquired steerage on the way to rapidly chill any glass – and easy recommendation on the way to maintain the carbonation and keep away from watery cocktails. Kanpai!

Japanese Lemon Sour - レモンサワー

What’s a Lemon Bitter?

The Japanese lemon bitter (レモンサワー) is a refreshing and crisp cocktail made with shochu, contemporary lemon juice, soda water and typically easy syrup – served on the rocks in a highball glass. This citrusy and fizzy libation is tremendous standard in izakayas and bars all through Japan.

Canned variations of bitter drinks are typically branded as Chu-hi (shochu highball) – and are bought at Japanese comfort shops like 7-Eleven, FamilyMart and Lawson. I like to think about these scrumptious, colourful pop-tops from the konbini because the exhausting seltzer of Japan.

Whereas impartial spirits like vodka are typically utilized in Japanese sawa drinks, the extra conventional choice is shochu.

What’s Shōchū?

Shochu (焼酎) is a Japanese spirit distilled from rice, barley, candy potatoes or buckwheat. Much less generally, shochu could be distilled from brown sugar. It’s a pretty impartial spirit with a gentle sweetness that varies relying on the bottom components – and is routinely loved on the rocks, neat, in highballs and in cocktails.

Japanese shochu has an ABV (alcohol by quantity) that varies from round 25-40% – which is significantly decrease than most vodka and Japanese whisky – however greater than most sake.

Soju is a Korean spirit (with an identical ABV) distilled from lots of the identical base components. You need to use both one to make a lemon bitter.

Ingredients for lemon sour drink

Japanese Lemon Bitter Components

  • Lemon Juice: Use contemporary lemon juice. You solely want 1/2 a lemon if the lemon is pretty juicy (anyplace between 1-2 tablespoons primarily based in your choice for citrus). Purists could scoff at this, however I’ve even used contemporary lime juice when the lemons on the grocery retailer had been *meh*.
  • Shōchū or Soju: You need to use Japanese shochu or Korean soju to make a lemon bitter. Seize no matter you favor – and what’s most available in your space. Generally you’ll hear soju known as Korean vodka. And whereas there are some variations in taste and ABV, it’s shut sufficient which you could completely use vodka in a pinch.
  • Soda Water: Any membership soda works. I’ve used Topo Chico, Schweppes, plain La Croix and seltzer I made utilizing a Soda Stream. If it’s acquired a crisp style with tight bubbles, it’ll do the trick.
  • Easy Syrup: That is only a answer of 1 half sugar dissolved into 1 half heat or sizzling water. The issue with including sugar to a chilly cocktail is that it hardly ever dissolves absolutely. You possibly can maintain a container of straightforward syrup within the fridge to make use of in cocktails, iced espresso, lemonade, and so on. This works with refined sugar and uncooked sugar alike. Alternatively, you need to use agave syrup.
  • Ice Cubes: Any ice is ok right here. However bigger, strong cubes soften extra slowly and neutralize the fizziness of your lemon bitter much less. The ice from our fridge at residence, for instance, produces cloudy weak ice cubes that get slushy rapidly. You may make extra strong ice cubes by freezing distilled water in silicone molds. However this isn’t a deal breaker. Generally protecting it easy is the way in which to go! In case you’re severely into fancy 100% clear cocktail ice, you’ll be able to make it at residence with slightly work.
Juicing a lemon

Find out how to Make a Lemon Bitter Cocktail

  1. First, add the lemon juice and shochu (or soju) to a tall glass.
  2. Add loads of ice cubes and stir properly.
  3. Then add the soda water. A few cup ought to do it.
  4. Subsequent, add the easy syrup. If that is the primary time you’re making a lemon bitter at residence, add slightly bit, style – then add extra till you’re glad with the sweetness stage. In case you’re watching your sugar consumption, be happy to omit.
  5. Lastly, stir one to 2 light rotations with a swizzle stick, chopstick or straw – and garnish with a slice of lemon or a lemon twist (a curl from a lemon peel). Serve instantly.

Professional Ideas

Whereas there’s no have to overcomplicate issues, listed below are a pair further easy issues you are able to do to ensure your Japanese sawa is as chilly, tart and fizzy as doable.

  • Use a frosted glass. Frosting your glass implies that your ice cubes received’t soften as rapidly and your drink will keep colder longer. To do that, merely moist a clear, room temperature collins glass with slightly water and stick it within the freezer for 30-60 minutes. Don’t use a sizzling glass contemporary out of the dishwasher – as the fast change in temperature may cause it to crack.
  • Or chill a room temp glass with ice. Don’t need to wait half-hour for a frosted glass? Simply cool it down with ice cubes. Fill your glass with ice cubes and stir the cubes with a protracted spoon or chopstick for at the least 30 seconds. Be sure that to pour out any water that melts previous to assembling your cocktail. On the spot chilly!
  • Freeze lemons. In case you like an excellent tart lemon bitter that received’t get watery, use frozen lemons as an alternative of ice cubes. To do that, phase a lemon (I prefer to take away the outer pores and skin completely) and put the juicy flesh within the freezer. Use the frozen lemon bits in lieu of ice. It’s tremendous contemporary and very tart!
  • Don’t overstir or shake your lemon bitter. As soon as the seltzer (soda water) is added to your glass, these bubbles received’t stick round eternally. And one of many essential risks to your bubbles is stirring an excessive amount of. One or two rotations of a spoon or straw must be sufficient to get the job executed – whereas protecting the lion’s share of the fizz in your cocktail.
Glass with ice cubes, lemon juice, and soju

Variations on Bitter / Sawa Cocktails in Japan

As I discussed, chuhai is principally an abbreviation of ‘shochu highball’. And there are numerous bitter variations except for the long-lasting lemon bitter. Listed here are just a few you’ll generally discover on bar and izakaya menus in Japan:

  • Apple Bitter
  • Plum Bitter
  • Calpis Bitter
  • Yuzu Bitter
  • Kabosu Bitter

However understand that Japanese bitter drinks differ a bit from traditional cocktails like a pisco bitter, amaretto bitter, whiskey bitter or a sidecar.

Lemon Sour Cocktail (レモンサワー)

My Favourite Japanese Cocktail

After I was dwelling and dealing as a mannequin in Japan, I acquired a aspect job as a bartender. I in all probability made 1000’s of lemon sours within the quick time I labored there.

What I liked most – particularly once we had been busy – was that the formulation was tremendous simple: shochu, contemporary citrus juice, soda water and (typically) slightly easy syrup. NO advanced recipe together with bitter combine, garishly purple maraschino cherry, cocktail shaker or martini glass required!

And, positive, I drank just a few as properly – lengthy after I stop the bartending gig and my modeling portfolio grew. I liked the crisp, citrusy, effervescent refreshment on the finish of a protracted day. The truth is, that’s the precise taste profile that jogs my memory most of these carefree years in Tokyo, hanging out with pals at an izakaya into the wee hours.

I hope you like this lemon bitter as a lot as I do. Kanpai!

And Examine Out These Different Straightforward Cocktail Recipes

Did you want this Japanese lemon bitter recipe? Are there adjustments you made that you just want to share? Share your suggestions and suggestions within the feedback part under!


Lemon Bitter (Japanese)

Japanese Lemon Sour - レモンサワー

Make this traditional Japanese lemon bitter cocktail with simply 4 components!

  • Writer: Caroline Phelps
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook dinner Time: 0 minutes
  • Complete Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink 1x
  • Class: Cocktail
  • Methodology: Combined
  • Delicacies: Japanese




  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 cup shōchū (or soju)
  • 1/2 cup soda water
  • 1 tablespoon easy syrup (1 tablespoon sugar blended with 1 tablespoon water)
  • Ice cubes


  1. Add lemon juice and shōchū to a tall glass.
  2. Then add ice cubes and stir.
  3. Add soda water.
  4. Slowly add the easy syrup and style as you go. Use extra should you desire a sweeter drink.
  5. Prime with a lemon slice and serve.


You possibly can pre-make the easy syrup and maintain it readily available. Simply combine 1 half sugar with 1 half sizzling water and stir till the sugar dissolves. Chill earlier than utilizing.

Giant, clear, strong ice cubes will soften extra slowly than weak, slushy ice. To additional inhibit ice soften, use a frosted or chilly glass.


  • Serving Dimension: 1 drink
  • Energy: 146
  • Sugar: 15.7g
  • Sodium: 26.8mg
  • Fats: 0.1g
  • Saturated Fats: 0g
  • Unsaturated Fats: 0g
  • Trans Fats: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 21.3g
  • Fiber: 0.2g
  • Protein: 0.5g
  • Ldl cholesterol: 0mg

Key phrases: レモンサワー

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