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How To Make Japanese Style Lemon Sour At Home

how to make Japanese style lemon sour at homeFood & Drinks
Food & Drinks
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When Japanese people refer to “Sour”(サワー) at Izakayas (NOT authentic bars), it is generally a casual cheap drink, it is far from the stylish fancy “sour” cocktails.

The Japanese style sour is made with a distilled spirit such as vodka, shochu,carbonated water, fresh fruit juice, or syrup.

It sounds like “Japanese Chu-Hi” which is also casual Izakaya drinks, in fact, the definitions of “Sour” and “Chu-Hi” in Izakaya chain restaurants are very burly.

Anyway, it’s a very popular drink at Japanese Izakaya also home, especially “Lemon Sour”(レモンサワー) has been trending recently among Japanese people.

When you go to Japan, you’ll find different types of canned Lemon Sour, from bitter to sweet, strong fizzy, or strong alcohol contains.

Besides, it’s so easy to make Lemon Sour at home and there are several recipes around.

It has taken me far too long to discover my favorite one, in this way, the lemon sour will keep lemony and never be thinner.


I infuse vodka with lemon peels and use frozen cut lemons instead of ice cubes.

To make the best Japanese “Lemon Sour”, just need good lemons, a bottle of your favorite distilled spirit, and a little patience.


For 5 – 6 time drinks

  • 3 organic lemons (non-waxed preferred)
  • 2 cups of Distilled spirit (Vodka, Gin, Shochu)
  • Carbonated water or sparkling water or Club Soda
  • Sugar syrup (if needed)

Get Ready…Lemon


To infuse distilled spirits (Vodka, gin, or Japanese shochu), I recommend using organic lemons.

Since non-organic lemons are usually coated with wax, and alcohol will pull everything from those peels, including any pesticides or insecticides used on the lemons.

Wash Lemons Well

If you can’t get non-waxed lemons, wash well scrubbing surfaces with warm water.

I usually soak in the soapy warm water for about 10 – 15 minutes, scrub surfaces with a brush or a sponge and rinse really well with running water.

Another method is to scrub lemons with baking soda (with a little water if needed), and soak lemons for a few minutes in the water added some tablespoons of baking soda. Rinse them under tap water once you are done.

Clean a sink and water tap before dumping the solution (water + baking soda) away! Not waste baking soda!

Peel Lemon Skins

remove lemon peel, knif

I do remove skins with a knife, but you can use a vegetable peeler too.

Try peel outer yellow skins as much as you can because white parts will give a ‘bitter” taste to the alcohol.

Trim away any large pieces of pith with a knife if you see thick white parts.

Make Homemade Lemon-Infused Vodka

transfer lemon peels into the jar, vodka

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

Let it sit in a refrigerator from overnight up to a month.

pour vodka into the jar

The lemon flavor (strongness) differs depending on the period of infusion time. For only overnight, the scent of lemon slightly extracted. For a week or longer, it gets lemony flavor and more yellowish.

Another Process; Freeze Lemon

cut lemons into wedges, freeze lemons

We use lemon fruits for this recipe, don’t think that you can make lemonade.

Cut the lemons into a half or wedges, whatever you like.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and freeze cut lemons in a single layer.

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

Finally Make Lemon Sour

make a lemon sour

Fill a glass with frozen lemons instead of ice pour homemade lemon-infused vodka and carbonated water.

My very favorite ratio is, lemon-infused vodka: water = 1 : 2

Do not stir well.

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.

Use chilled carbonated water (sparkling water, club soda) to keep Lemon Sour cold longer.

Need Sweeten?

make another one

When you follow this recipe, the lemon sour is a nice lemony and dry.

If you like sweeter, you can add “sugar syrup” or “lemon syrup” when infusing vodka or you can add syrup after making Lemon Sour in your glass.

Make Own Sugar Syrup

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

Buy Commercial Syrup

Simply you can buy commercial syrup for cocktails such as cane syrup, flavored syrup online.

If you like ginger flavor, the honey ginger syrup can be a good twist for the lemon sour!

yuzu, korean honey and citrus tea, lemon sour

I like the dry lemon sour itself, but sometimes add Korean Honey Citron & Ginger Tea”(yujacha) as sweeter which adds unique Yuzu flavor.

Korean honey citron and ginger tea is a traditional Korean tea made with citrus fruits (Yuzu fruits) and honey, so it is not a tea itself. The Yuzu flavor is like bitter lemons, limes, oranges, or grapefruit…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 mixing with fizzy water. It’s little pain to dissolve in the cold water, but it can adds unique sweet fruity flavor to Lemon Sour.

It’s also said to relieve hangovers…

At Last…

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.

how to make Japanese style lemon sour at home

Do you need to know about SHOCHU?

Other Alcoholic Drinks.

Need Nibbles???

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