Lemon Sour
Photo: Kit Kriewaldt, Design: Zineb Bektachi

5 best canned lemon sours to drink in Japan

Forget hard seltzer – these classic canned cocktails are everywhere in Japan. Here are the lemon sours you must try

Kit Kriewaldt
Written by
Kit Kriewaldt
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In Japan, lemon sours are ubiquitous simple cocktails made from shochu (Japan’s answer to vodka), soda water and lemon juice. They’re a classic standby order at an izakaya, especially in the warmer months, and you’re guaranteed to find them at convenience stores, right next to the whisky highballs and beer. 

Canned lemon sours are such a staple that comparing them almost misses the point. After all, the best lemon sour is the one you’re drinking. But it seems like a new brand comes along every month boasting low sugar, exotic citrus or some other special feature to stand out. With so many sours to choose from, we thought we’d help you out.

Here are five of our favourite canned lemon sours, so you’ll know which one to pick on your next konbini run.

RECOMMENDED: Or go for something fancier at one of Tokyo's best rooftop bars

Sweet and sour

Lemon Sour Squad
Photo: Kit Kriewaldt, Design: Zineb Bektachi

Lemon Sour Squad

These bold and beautiful cans are exclusive to Lawson convenience stores – luckily there’s one at every street corner. A step up from a classic lemon sour in a can, Lemon Sour Squad is a great option for newcomers. It’s tart but refreshing and easy to drink. In other words, a perfect summer afternoon sour.

ABV 7 percent, juice 9 percent.

Honey Lemon Lemondo
Photo: Kit Kriewaldt, Design: Zineb Bektachi

Honey Lemon Lemondo

The least boozy option on the list, Honey Lemon Lemondo is also the most comforting. The mixture of honey and lemon is nicely balanced, so it’s neither tart nor cloying, and that lower ABV makes it dangerously drinkable. You’ll find Lemondo sours in just about any konbini, but the brand has similar-looking cans with very different flavours, so be sure to pick the one with the orange highlights. 

ABV 3 percent, juice 7 percent.

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Kaldi Sicilian Lemon Sour
Photo: Kit Kriewaldt, Design: Zineb Bektachi

Kaldi Sicilian Lemon Sour

Trust import store Kaldi Coffee Farm to take the lemon sour to southern Italy. Unlike a lot of canned sours, the lemon in this isn’t the artificial detergent-flavoured stuff – it’s the real deal. In fact, this fancy canned cocktail is so tart it tastes like an alcoholic lemon squash. There’s also a slightly syrupy texture that saves it from being eye-watering but without making it too sweet. If you’ve ever wished you could drink sour candy, this is the can for you.

ABV 5 percent, juice 7 percent.

Strong Zero
Photo: Kit Kriewaldt, Design: Zineb Bektachi

Strong Zero

Perhaps a controversial pick, but we couldn’t leave Suntory’s ubiquitous can of rocket fuel off the list. Say what you will about Strong Zero, it certainly gets the job done, and sometimes that’s all you need from a lemon sour. Don’t be fooled by the name; these are the opposite of non-alcoholic. The ‘zero’ refers to zero added sugar – good to know – but that’s not exactly what makes this drink so popular.

ABV 9 percent, juice 3 percent.

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Ryukyu Lemon Sour
Photo: Kit Kriewaldt, Design: Zineb Bektachi

Ryukyu Lemon Sour

If you’re looking for a seriously zesty sour with a tropical twist, this drink is for you. Available exclusively at upmarket supermarket chain Seijo Ishii, the Ryukyu Lemon Sour is named for the kingdom that once ruled Okinawa. While typical lemon sours are a mix of shochu and lemon juice, this uses awamori, the local Okinawan spirit, and shikwasa, Okinawa’s native citrus. It’s not technically a lemon sour, but after one sip, you’ll understand why it’s on the list.

ABV 5 percent, juice 8 percent.

More drinking tips

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