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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
Food & Recipes

Lemon sour has been booming in Japan since around 2017 and has still been getting attention.

New canned lemon sour comes out from several alcoholic beverage companies continuously, and recently, the number of Izakayas that have original unique lemon sour specialties have been around throughout Japanese metropolitans.

Due to the pandemic restrictions, many Japanese drink lovers enjoy lemon sour at home.

My favorite lemon sour recipe that I am going to tell you today, you can keep a fresh lemony taste in the drink until the end without watering it down.


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

Wash And Rinse Lemons Well

To make infused distilled spirits (Vodka, gin, or Japanese shochu) with lemon, 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, wash well with s scrubbing brush with warm water.

Soak in the soapy warm water for about 10 – 15 minutes before scrubbing, and then scrub skins and rinse really well with running water.

You can also use baking soda to wash the wax off.

Scrub lemons with baking soda (with a little water if needed), soak lemons for a while in the water added a couple of tablespoons of baking soda.

Rinse them under tap water well.

Remove Only The Yellow Part From The Lemon

remove lemon peel, knif

I prefer using a knife to peel lemon skins, but you can use a vegetable peeler too.

Remove the top and the bottom, and carefully peel off only the topmost layers of the yellow part from top to bottom.

You can scrape off the white part from the removed peels if needed.

How To Make Lemon-Infused Vodka

Transfer the lemon peels to a clean jar and cover with your favorite distilled spirits ( I used “Stolichnaya vodka” this time).

Let the lemon peels infused into liquor in a dark cool place or a 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.

The lemony flavor depends on how long you infuse them in the liquor.

Again, you can start tasting it the next day, it’s a slight lemon scent will be extracted.

It will get more lemony and more beautiful yellow after a week.

Keep Lemon Flesh To Make Fresh Lemon Ice

cut lemons into wedges, freeze lemons

Keep lemon flesh to make fresh “lemon ice” for Japanese lemon sour.

Fresh frozen lemon cuts can keep the lemony flavor in the cocktail without watering it down.

Remove the thick white part from the lemon flesh and cut it into a quoter or wedges.

Line a baking pan with parchment paper ( so the lemon cuts will not stick on the pan) and arrange lemons in a single layer.

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

How To Make Japanese Lemon Sour At Home

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 a glass wall cold.
  5. When you pour the fizzy water, gently pour it along the glass wall.

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.

yuzu, korean honey and citrus tea, lemon sour

Homemade Japanese-style Lemon Sour

Rico McConnellRico McConnell
Authentic Japanese-style lemon sour using homemade lemon-infused vodka!
Course Drinks
Cuisine Japanese


  • 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.
Keyword Alcohol, Cocktails, drink, fruit, Izakaya, Summer

Highball Glass For Japanese Lemon Sour

To make the best Japanese lemon sour, he needs thin wall highball glass.

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

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 Shochu To Make Lemon Sour At Home

If you want to upgrade to lemon sour or want a lower alcohol content level in the lemon sour, you can change to Japanese shochu instead of vodka.

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.

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

Sneaky! Easy Infused Vodka/ Shochu With Whole Lemon

If you want to skip the peeling process, here is the sneaky way to infuse liquor. Use whole lemon cuts (peels and flesh). It’ll be also a refreshing lemony flavor, but a bitter adult taste.

Next New Lemon Sour

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 Sugar Syrup

Dissolve the 1-2 cup of sugar in the boiling water, and simmer it until the sugar is dissolved. Stirring constantly and let it cool.

Homemade Lemon Syrup

simple homemade lemon syrup

This homemade simple lemon syrup is so easy and so good.

AND, you need only two ingredients-lemons and sugar.

This natural sweetener also goes well with a cup of tea!

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 a 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 the cold water, but it can add a unique sweet fruity flavor to Lemon Sour.

It’s also said to relieve hangovers…

Ottogi Honey Teas, 35 oz (Citron)

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 Recipe

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 in Lemon Sour.

Only the 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.

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