Chuhai vs Sour: Japanese Alcoholic Drinks

“Chuhai (酎ハイ, チュウハイ)” and “Sour (サワー)” are both varieties of alcoholic drinks that can be seen in “Izakaya (居酒屋)”, a Japanese pub that serves a wide range of dishes and beverages.

Chuhai and Sour are actually very similar things. Some Izakaya restaurants call it Chuhai, whereas others call the same drink Sour. 

Chuhai vs Sour: Japanese Alcoholic Beverages

I wondered how exactly these differ from each other and wanted to spot the difference. And I actually did!

So today, for people who have the same question as I had, I will share the result of my research.

What is Chuhai (チューハイ)?

Chuhai drinks

Chuhai is a portmanteau of shochu and highball, but there is no clear definition of it.

In general, Chuhai refers to a drink made from colorless and unscented sprits, such as shochu and vodka, with fruit juice or the like added, which is diluted with carbonated water.

But as you may know, in recent years, Chuhai can also be made with non-carbonated soft drinks such as green tea.

What is Sour (サワー)?

Lemon Sour

The origin of the Japanese drink name “Sour (サワー)” literally comes from the English word “sour”.  

The base of the beverage Sour is also a spirit or liquor (mostly shochu), to which sweet stuff (such as sugar) and sour fruit juice (such as citrus and berries) are added.

The cocktail is diluted with soda or sparkling water, which is generally called Sour. (So Lemon Chuhai can also be called Lemon Sour.)

But as with Chuhai, the definition of Sour is vague, and it can also be made with non-carbonated drinks such as calpis.

(Reference Pages: Suntory, Nomooo )


Hi, I'm Tomo, a Japanese blogger living in Niigata Prefecture, Japan. For the purpose of enriching your life, I would like to introduce things about Japan on this blog, especially unique Japanese products, cooking recipes, cultures, and facts and trivia.

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