Kanpai! 10 Japanese Whiskey Cocktails to Master

March 17, 2023 by Helena Lombard

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Even though Japan is more famous for its shochu and sake, it’s become one of the world’s best whiskey producers over the last few years. So, it stands to reason that there’s a whole world of Japanese whiskey cocktails waiting to be discovered. Excited yet? So are we!  

As most of you will know, rules are big in Japan, and when it comes to drinking, it’s no different. Rule number one? Never drink alone. Rule number two, wait for all your friends to have their drinks in front of them before touching yours. And lastly, someone has to say “kanpai!” before you’re allowed to take your first sip.

Ready? Invite your friends over and try your hand at mixing up a few of these classic Japanese drinks.   

Japanese Highball

Refreshing Japanese whiskey cocktail in highball

This is a great place to start if you’ve never tasted Japanese whiskey. The Japanese Highball is a simple 2-ingredient cocktail that mixes whiskey with sparkling water. This tall, bubbly drink is refreshing and has a low ABV, making it the perfect serve for garden parties and picnics.   

Japanese SourJapanese Whiskey Sour Cocktail

Japanese Whiskey Sour cocktail

Smoky, sour, smooth, and seductively frothy on top, the Japanese Sour is a spin-off of the classic Whiskey Sour. While the smoky whiskey no doubt shines in these Japanese whiskey drinks, the addition of the other ingredients makes this cocktail a total showstopper. Fresh lemon and yuzu (or lime), Japanese kuromitsu (black sugar syrup) add a warm caramel tone, bitters cut through the sweetness, and egg white adds volume and a foamy texture on top. This Insta-worthy cocktail will be a hit at your next dinner party, so if you’re looking for something exceptional, this is it.   

Japanese Style Old Fashioned
Pouring shot of Japanese style Old Fashioned

The Old Fashioned is another one of those classic cocktails that makes an excellent canvas for different flavour variations. To make this version, you’re going to replace the bourbon with Japanese whiskey and replace the simple syrup with ginger-infused black sugar syrup. The rest of the ingredients are as you’d expect, with a few dashes of bitters and a classic orange peel twist for garnish. Oh, and don’t let black sugar syrup put you off trying any of our Japanese cocktails! You can easily make your own using molasses or treacle sugar instead.  

Strawberry Samurai

Refreshing Japanese Whiskey cocktails with strawberries

The Strawberry Samurai is one of those Japanese whiskey drinks that’s an acquired taste. This spirit-froward cocktail is made with strawberry syrup, rice vinegar and cardamom bitters. If you’re looking for something a little different, serve these to impress.   

Toki Americano

Toki Americano cocktail with whiskey decanter

Japan comes to hang out in Italy’s aperitivo hour in one of our favourite new drinks. This stir-and-strain drink is a spin-off of Italy’s famous Americano cocktail and is a beautiful balance of bittersweet and savoury flavours. A Toki Americano combines Italian liqueur, Japanese whiskey, and Cynar—a bittersweet and refreshing artichoke liqueur.   

If you love an interesting twist as much as we do, give this one a go. It’s magic.

Black Ship

Black Ship Japanese whiskey cocktails with snacks

This intriguing cocktail is fruity and full-bodied and pays homage to Japan’s whisky history. The story goes that in 1853 commodore Matthew Perry arrived at Edo harbour on big black ships. But he didn’t come alone. He arrived with a few barrels of whiskey and presented the Emperor with America’s best tipple. This was Japan’s first taste of whiskey, and two decades later, they started importing it into the country. Then, in the 1920s, Japan began to make its own, and the rest is history. Cheers, Matt! 

To make the Japanese whiskey cocktails stir together pomegranate juice, port and lemon juice, and ice, then strain it into a chilled martini glass and add a lemon peel twist as garnish. Sophisticated, simple and very sippable.

Tokyo Sidecar

Tokyo Sidecar cocktail in coupe

Grand Marnier, Japanese whiskey and yuzu juice come together to create an Asian-inspired Sidecar cocktail. Cognac gets replaced with whiskey, and lemon juice is replaced with yuzu juice—but lime will do just fine. Shaken and strained into a chilled coupe, this bright cocktail will delight your guests. Best served icy cold, just before dinner.   

The Smash

Refreshing Japanese Whiskey Smash cocktails with mint garnish

The Whiskey Smash came onto the cocktail scene yonks back, and this is a Japanese spin-off of the American classic. This muddled zesty drink is all lemon, which you’ll be muddling straight in the glass, along with fresh mint and simple syrup. Add some Japanese whiskey, and if you want to spritz it up, add some sparkling water.   

Simple to make with smashing citrus notes, this refreshing drink can be served all summer long. And believe us, you’ll want to.   

The Red Akuma

Refreshing Japanese whiskey and blood orange cocktails

This one is for the adventurous drinker looking for a Japanese whiskey drink with a spicy edge. If you love a Spicy Margarita, then the Red Akuma will be right up your matchi. To make this burst of flavour, combine Japanese whiskey, agave, blood orange juice and chopped jalapenos in a cocktail shaker. Give it a good shake for at least 30 seconds, and strain it into ice-filled rocks glasses. Pair it with platters of sushi and tempura if you’re hosting a cocktail evening with friends. 

Matcha Highball

Green Matcha and Japanese whiskey drinks

If you love the taste of Matcha green tea, then these cocktails with Japanese whiskey will surely satisfy. To make a summer-inspired Matcha highball, you’ll need Japanese whiskey, fresh lemon, honey syrup, matcha green tea powder and sparkling water. The neutral taste of green tea means that the whiskey is the star of this cocktail, which is precisely what you want. Great for summertime picnics and easy to make into a pitcher.   


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