Last week, we brought you news that Japanese brewing company Suntory was releasing an alcoholic, summer-only tomato-juice drink called Hajikeru Tomato no Sake Toma Toma Sparkling, or just Toma Toma Sparkling for short. Some of us here at RocketNews24 apparently aren’t big fans of tomato juice, a fact which leaves the rest of us (i.e. the righteous and upstanding) baffled. Since it’s one of my top three non-alcoholic drinks, after orange juice and acerola juice, I was more than happy to take up the task of taste-testing this strange new concoction from Suntory.
So, how does Toma Toma Sparkling fare? Is it delicious, fizzy tomato juice that will give you a hangover or is it an abomination better poured down the toilet?
First, before we actually crack open a bottle of this tomato liqueur, I have to tell you what a freaking pain it was to find the stuff. I live in a residential neighborhood in Tokyo and since Suntory advertised the drink as being available all across the country, I simply headed down to my nearest convenience store to pick up a bottle…but there was none to be found! Well, maybe they were sold out, I thought, and headed to another convenience store. And then another and another and yet another before getting smart and heading to a proper liquor store. There, the nice old lady behind the counter smiled and said, “Sorry, don’t have any of that.”
Disappointed, I went home and cried myself to sleep.
▼And this was what I dreamed of.
Luckily, though, fortune smiled on me the following day, and I spied a row of Toma Toma Sparkling in a Shinagawa FamilyMart convenience store on my way home from the immigration office. Dashing to the cooler, I snatched up a few bottles and scurried home to try out this nigh-mythical drink.
My expectations were, to say the least, high.
▼Two bottles of Toma Toma Sparkling and a bottle of Kagome Tomato Juice
in case I needed something to wash the taste of disappointment out of my mouth.
The bottles are made of glass, with bright red plastic labels proclaiming that the drink contains 27 percent tomato juice and 4 percent alcohol. That’s less alcohol than most wines, though it’s in keeping with the average canned chūhai drink (which are basically shochu and juice) found in convenience stores. A bottle of the sparkling tomato liqueur will put you back 230 yen (around US$2.25) minus tax.
That’s all well and good…but how does it taste?
Settling down at my desk, I spun the bottle around once and paused to look at the cap — another benefit for potential drinkers. The top comes off with just a little force. Since it comes with a tab, you don’t even need a can opener! I’m not sure if anyone, ever, has requested this sort of design, but it’s nifty, I suppose.
▼Oh, baby, look at that sexy bottle cap!
▼Don’t you just want to rip it off?
▼And shove that chilly, tasty tip in your mouth?
Tearing the cap off, I took a deep breath, tilted the bottle back, and sipped some down. It was simply…well, take a look at the gif below to see my reaction.
Holy crap, that was awesome! Though I had high expectations, I was also extremely skeptical of the concept. In fact, I was secretly expecting it to taste like watered-down tomato juice water.
Fortunately, the drink has a clear, distinct taste of tomato and a very slight amount of carbonation. It wasn’t overpowering or extremely thick like the Kagome Tomato Juice, despite the giant tomato on the front. Where regular tomato juice is like slurping a tomato smoothie pumped through a fire hose, Toma Toma Sparkling is closer to sipping a beer at the beach as the sunsets. The drink was also slightly tangy, which added an appropriate zing to each sip. “Refreshing” was the word my wife used for it, and I’d agree completely.
If you like tomatoes, this is definitely a drink I would recommend. I was happy with the very slight carbonation, since I generally avoid fizzy drinks, so if you prefer your sparkling liqueur to be really sparkling, you might be disappointed here. And if you don’t like tomatoes, you might as well give this a pass, unless you’re desperate for the health benefits of tomato juice.
▼It was so good, I had to try it again just to be sure…
Yep, the second bottle was just as delicious!
If you live in Japan, you should be able to find Toma Toma Sparkling in your local convenience store, but if they’re not carrying it, you can also order it online. Amazon Japan sells the drink by the bottle for 229 yen each (about $2.25), but shipping looks like it will take six to 10 days! Rakuten also offers the drink in both single bottles and 24-bottle cases.
Now that I’ve finished both bottles, it’s time to go looking for more. If anyone spots me wandering around Tokyo mumbling about tomato booze, please just put me in a taxi and send me home.
Reference: Toma Toma Sparkling
All images by RocketNews24