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Home Izakaya! How To Make Japanese Style Lemon Sour

homeizakaya, cocktails, how to make Japanese-style lemon sour, at home Food & Recipes

Lemon sour has been booming in Japan since around 2017, still now.

New canned lemon sour continuously comes out from various alcoholic beverage companies, besides, Izakaya restaurants attract Japanese alcoholic lovers with their original lemon sour recipes.

Due to the pandemic restrictions, today, homemade lemon sour has been trending now.

I have no way to get Japanese canned lemon sour while living in the US, so I enjoy my own lemon sour too.

My favorite lemon sour recipe that I am going to tell you today, you can keep a refreshing citrusy lemon sour until the end without getting it watery.


Use lemon-infused vodka and frozen cut lemons instead of ice cubes.

Making the best Japanese “lemon sour” requires good lemons, your favorite bottle of distilled liquor, and a little patience.

Although I call Japanese lemon sour this recipe, you can use vodka instead of Japanese Shochu. (You need ABV, right? )

Of course, you can use Japanese (not Korean) shochu looking for more Authenticity.

To avoid misunderstanding, the reason I call this “Japanese lemon sour” is because it is dry, unsweet, and tastes like a popular Izakaya drink, and it is not because of using Shochu.

Make Lemon-Infused Distilled Spirit

The lemon-infused distilled spirits provide a richer citrusy flavor and aroma to this lemon sour.

Choose your favorite distilled spirits with clear flavors such as vodka, Korui shochu, or maybe gin.

About lemons, highly recommend using organic unwaxed lemons.

When using waxed lemons, alcohol can pull toxic liquor out of peels, including the pesticides applied to lemons.

If you can’t get unwaxed lemons,

  1. Soak lemons in lukewarm water adding dish soap and baking soda, for about 15 minutes.
  2. Scrub (you can also use baking soda as the cleanser, )and rinse them thoughtfully.


In 1907, Nishio Shoten began selling scrubbing brushes called KAMENOKO TAWASHI in Japanese, and these TAWASHI have been loved for over 100 years.

Kamenoko Tawashi is made with carefully selected palms and is tremendously durable and effective that it is said that “Kameko Tawashi lasts three times longer than other products.”

High-quality scrubbers handmade by Japanese craftsmen.

If it gets greasy, simply wash TAWASHI with formed dish soap thoughtfully.

When you are concerned about germs, pour over boiled water or dry it in the sun.

It’s better to hang TAWASHI to keep it if possible.

The Best Shochu To Make Lemon Sour At Home

I use vodka to make daily Lemon sour at home considering the cost performance, but of course, you can use Japanese Shochu to make authentic genuine lemon sour to bring an authentic genuine Izakaya atmosphere.

When you want to try authentic lemon sour made of Japanese shochu or want to make it with lower alcohol content, check out this post about the best shochu for a homemade lemon sour.

Japanese Shochu is not only one kind, as you know, but you should also know which Shochu to use for a delicious lemon sour.

Remove Only The Yellow Part From The Lemon

Try removing the yellow skins only with a knife or a peeler since the white parts make the lemon-infused spirit bitter.

Discard the top and the bottom of the lemon, and carefully remove only the topmost layers of the yellow part.

Scrape the white part remaining on the peel if needed.

If you think it’s a pain in the neck, here is the easy version of the lemon-infused vodka recipe using whole parts of skins.

It’ll be a little bitter, but, it is not so unpleasant flavor if you like it.

Easy Infused Vodka/ Shochu With Whole Lemon

If you want to prepare lemons in the easiest way, use whole lemon cuts (peels and flesh).

This way shouldn’t be a problem, still, the lemon-infused spirit also tastes refreshing, lemony flavor with a bitter adult taste.

You may don’t need the recipe, just cut the clean lemons, remove the seeds, and soak the lemon cuts in your choice of distilled spirit.

How Long Does It Take To Infuse Vodka?

Transfer the yellow lemon peels to a clean jar and cover it with your choice of distilled spirit.

Store it in a dark cool place or in a refrigerator.

You can enjoy lemon-infused vodka from the next day, but I recommend infusing the liquor for a minimum of 1 week, and, 3-4 weeks is best.

As long as infusing the liquor with lemon peels, you can get a more luxurious citrus flavor, aroma, and color.

It will get a more beautiful yellow after a week.

Keep Lemon Flesh To Make Fresh Lemon Ice

Make frozen “lemon ice” for the supreme refreshing lemon sour.

Frozen fresh lemon ice is the key to keeping the refreshing citrus flavor in this cocktail without getting watery while drinking.

Besides, the citrusy freshness will last for even another glass pouring the infused distilled spirit and carbonated water.

Enjoy the lemon sour with a more refreshing zesty flavor.

Discard the thick white part from the lemon flesh and cut it into a quarter or wedges.

Line parchment paper on the baking sheet and arrange the lemons in a single layer.

If you want to make the fancy frozen sliced lemon decoration, slice up the lemon and layer the sides attaching each side to stick together.

Once the lemons are fully frozen, pop them into a freezer bag.

Tips For The Best Japanese Lemon Sour

Once your infusion has reached its peak flavor, now, you can enjoy homemade lemon sour in Japanese style.

Fill a glass with fresh lemon ice.

Add infused vodka/Shochu and pour carbonated water/ sparkling water/ club soda.

Stir it once to keep fizz.

To keep the fizz in the lemon sour, do not stir well.

Gently insert a bar spoon down to the bottom and stir once or twice if needed.

Pro Tip To Make The Best Lemon Sour

  1. Let the fizzy water cold in a refrigerator.
  2. Also, let a glass cold in a refrigerator or in a freezer.
  3. Use a thin wall glass since you can taste lemon sour more directly. (*Avoid putting it in a freezer.)
  4. Or, fill a glass with lemon ice and stir with a bar spoon to let the glass wall cold.
  5. When you pour the fizzy water, gently pour it along the glass wall.

Highball Glass For Japanese Lemon Sour

The taste of lemon sour changes greatly depending on the glass you use.

Choose thin wall highball glass to make the best Japanese lemon sour.

The thin glass is the best for Japanese lemon sour (sawa).

It can provide the delicacy of the taste, and you can directly enjoy cold refreshing lemon sour.

KROSNO Highball Crystal Glass | Perfect for Home, Restaurants, and Parties | Dishwasher and Microwave Safe

The Best Carbonated/ Sparkling Water For Japanese Lemon Sour

As well as making Whiskey highball, be picky on the carbonated water if you use no-cheap vodka or Shochu.

Avoid using natural sparkling (hard) water, it can eliminate the original alcohol flavor.

For more details, please check out this post later.

Do You Want To Sweeten Lemon Sour?

The reason I call this recipe “Japanese lemon sour” is because it’s not sweet.

Generally, lemon sour in Japan is not sweet or less sweet than cocktails you think.

If you’d like to sweeten lemon sour, honey, sugar syrup, citrus-flavored syrup, and lemon sour work dramatically together with simple Japanese-style lemon sour.

Homemade GINGER Syrup


Spicy, zingy, but cozy! Add this authentic exotic spice kick that attracts you more than store-bought sweet ginger syrup: to your cozy hot drinks, refreshing sweet cocktails and sodas, yogurt, and ice cream! Even more, you can use this ginger syrup for cooking and baking.


Homemade Lemon Syrup For Sour Cocktails

This homemade simple lemon syrup is so easy to make with only two ingredients and so rich, clear, natural, anyway good!

Perfect for all your needs!

*Check out the recipe

Korean Honey Citron & Ginger Tea

I like the dry lemon sour itself, but sometimes add “Korean Honey Tea” (yujacha) as sweeter.

Which adds a unique Yuzu flavor.

Korean honey citron and ginger tea is a traditional Korean tea made with Yuzu fruits and honey, so it is not a tea itself even if it is called tea.

The Yuzu flavor is like bitter lemons, limes, orange peels, or grapefruit, but not like them, it’s unique.

This thing called Yujacha tea is quite popular in Korea & Japan especially as the winter hot drink because of the rich in vitamin C to fight colds and flu.

Also, Ginger helps make your body warm.

Of course, the cold Yujacha is also refreshing especially when mixed with fizzy water. It’s little pain to dissolve in cold water, but it can add a unique sweet fruity flavor to Lemon Sour.

It’s also said to relieve hangovers…

KINKAN Marmalade Sauce

This KINKAN Marmalade recipe is made with unique citrus fruits and a little lemon juice, and it’s refreshing and delicious and is not overly sweet.

For butter toast, yogurt, or baking sweets, and also you can make KINKAN sour cocktail.

Easy Kinkan Marmalade & What’s KINKAN?

Japanese style lemon sour, how to make lemon sour, lemon infused vodka

Homemade Japanese-Style (Dry) Lemon Sour: The Best Lemon Cocktail To Try For This Summer!

Rico McConnellRico McConnell
Craving a refreshing lemon cocktail? But, away from the stylish sweet one? Here's the Japanese Izakaya dry Lemon sour recipe. Fresh lemons infused in Shochu or vodka (need ABV right?) brings a tangy zing to this classic Japanese popular Izakaya drink! Making frozen lemon flesh ice, it'll never be watery. Super-easy to make, better to try this summer! Since it is dry lemon sour, it goes perfectly with Japanese cuisine.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Drinks
Cuisine Japanese
Servings 16 servings


  • A clean and sanitized bottle or jar


  • 3 Organic non-waxed lemons
  • 2 Cups Vodka/Japanese Shochu Barley or rice Shochu is recommended *Iichiko/Shiro
  • Carbonated water/sparkling water/Club Soda
  • Sugar syrup *Optional


Make Lemon-infused Vodka

  • Wash and rinse lemons well.
  • Remove only the yellow part with a knife or a vegetable peeler.
    *The white part makes the liquor bitter.
    Remove the top and the bottom, and carefully peel off only the topmost layers of lemon skin from top to bottom.
  • You can scrape off the white part from the lemon peel with the knife if needed.
  • Transfer the lemon peels to a clean jar and pour your favorite Vodka.
  • Cover peels completely with the vodka.
    Close the lid tightly.
  • Allow the lemon to infuse into the vodka in a cool dark place.
    *I put it in the refrigerator.
  • You can enjoy lemon-infused vodka from the next day, but I recommend letting it infuse for a minimum of 1 week, and, 3-4 weeks is best.

Make Lemon Ice

  • Remove the thick white part from the lemon flesh with the knife.
  • Cut the lemon flesh into quarters or wedges.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and freeze cut lemons in a single layer.
  • Place lemon cuts in a single layer put the baking pan in the freezer to allow lemons to freeze for a few hours.
  • Once the lemons are fully frozen, pop them into a freezer bag.

Make Japanese-style Lemon Sour

  • Fill a glass with frozen lemon ice.
  • Pour infused- vodka and carbonated water gently.
  • Stir only once to keep fizz.



©Japanmcconnell/Rico McConnell- Content and photographs are copyright protected. Sharing this recipe is both encouraged and appreciated. Copying and/or pasting full recipes to any social media is strictly prohibited.
Keyword Alcohol, Cocktails, drink, Easy, fruit, Holiday, Izakaya, lemon, Party, Summer

Unique Japanese Lemon Sour Recipes

Lemon Koji Sour

Koji is the Japanese traditional fermented condiment used for making Sake, soy sauce, mirin, miso…etc.

“Lemon Koji” is literally made of lemons, salt, and rice koji.

Salty and refreshing citrus lemon flavor. It can add citrusy flavor instantly while breaking up the meat protein and turning it into the amino acids-umami flavor.

Lemon Shio Koji sour tastes mild-salty, citrus, and actually addictive more than you think.

Feel the deep Japanese tradition with this unique lemon sour.

Lemon shio koji sour, Japanese cocktail, Izakaya cocktail, recipe

Lemon Shio Koji Sour: The Perfect Healing Summer Cocktail

Rico McConnellRico McConnell
Can't wait for the private happy hour, that’s a time when a post-work boost of energy, is imperative and the desire to unwind and enjoy a refreshing and quenching your thirst. New Japanese-style lemon sour, which crazy Japanese mix·ol·o·gist are creating this Izakaya drink made with lemon shio koji. Koji is known for its health benefits, and lemon energizes you with its refreshing zesty flavor. Salt, during the hot summer season, a little extra amount of salt will help to prevent heat-related disease.
Course Drinks
Cuisine Japanese


  • 1 TSP Homemade Lemon Shio Koji
  • 1.5 fluid OZ Shochu/ Vodka
  • Carbonated water/ Club soda
  • Cut lemons


  • Gather Ingredients.
    *How to make Lemon Shio Koji.
    LEMON SHIO KOJI 101: Incorporate This Citrus Healthy Condiment Into Your Cooking Life
  • In a highball glass, add a few ice cubes, lemon shio-koji, and shochu/ vodka.
    Stir well.
  • Fill the glass with ice.
  • Pour carbonated water/ club soda.
  • Stir once.
  • Place the cut lemon if desired.



©Japanmcconnell/Rico McConnell- Content and photographs are copyright protected. Sharing this recipe is both encouraged and appreciated. Copying and/or pasting full recipes to any social media is strictly prohibited.
Keyword 10-minutes, Alcohol, Cocktails, cold, drink, Easy, Fermented food, fruit, Healthy, Holiday, Koji, lemon, Party, Shochu, Summer, Vodka

Shio Lemon Sour

Looking for a new lemon sour?

Citrusy Salty Bitter Preserved (Pickled) Lemon. Traditional Morrocan lemon and Traditional Japanese lemon sour meet together.

When lemons are ripe and ready for making a preserved lemon, it’s the time!

Easy to make preserved lemon-only two ingredients, lemons, and salt.

*Jump to the recipe

What Is “Sour” Drink In Japan, Anyway

When the Japanese refer to “Sour drink”, it generally means “casual cheap booze” at Izakaya chain restaurants (NOT authentic Izakayas and classic bars) or Karaoke rooms.

Those are definitely not the fancy sour cocktails that you order at stylish classic bars.

My Izakaya Sour Drink Recipes

Fresh-Squeezed Grapefruit & Spicy Tomato Jam Sour

It’s a mysterious delicious summer cocktail! So refreshing, the kind of drink you try to savor by sipping extra slowly while mixing the passionate color of grapefruits and tomato jam! Yet, always disappears quickly! Refreshing, still, tangy grapefruits, sweet grapefruits, citrusy grapefruits, sweet tomato jam, spicy jalapeno peppers…



Japanese highball is often called “sour” in Japan and very popular cocktail as a casual Izakaya drink. Japanese sour goes well with citrus fruit, well, that’s why the cocktail is called “sour”, and this recipe uses KINKAN fruit (kumquats fruits), a special seasonal sour cocktail. This is a dry Shochu highball recipe, but you can sweeten it if desired. Or, use Kinkan marmalade jam.


Lemon Sour VS Lemon Chu-Hi

Indeed, a Japanese sour drink is a mixed drink made of distilled spirits, fizzy water, and added fruit/non-fruit flavors.

Thus, the sour drink with lemon flavor is called ‘Lemon Sour’.

You may be curious so what’s the difference between lemon sour and lemon Chu-hi.

Chu-hi is another casual Izakaya drink, which is made of Japanese Shochu, carbonated water.

Thus, Lemon Chu-hi is made of Shochu, carbonated water, and lemon juice.

But, lots of Chu-hi products are made of vodka/ korui shochu so there is no clear definition between lemon sour and lemon Chu-Hi today.

Moreover, how this cocktail called lemon sour or lemon Chu-hi varies from local to local, (which means it varies between the west and east sides of Japan.)

To be precise, you can say Lemon Chu-hi when it is made of Japanese Shochu.


Isn’t it fun to watch the color getting yellowish every day?

When using normal ice for cocktails, it makes the flavor thinner, but
frozen lemons can keep the lemon flavor Lemon Sour.

The only thing to say last, I am going to cut bigger wedges next time, because I cut too small pieces so it didn’t keep the Lemon Sour cold enough.


McCola: Homemade Natural Cola Recipe

Homemade cola aka “Craft cola” is carefully made from raw materials. Moreover, you can make an organic cola drink that you know all ingredients in this refreshing sweet cola drink that everyone loves worldwide. With its exotic spice and hints of citrus, this “Craft Cola” is so refreshing and addictive. Add this aromatic delicate McCola to milk, coffee, tea, beer, gin, vodka, whiskey, and of course, rum to entertain your guests!


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