Sakura Sakuranbo aims to please with two types of cherry flavors.
Earlier this week we took a look at Starbucks Japan’s two new cherry blossom cream-based beverages. Tasty and filling, they can satisfy a sweet tooth or an empty stomach, and since one is hot and the other chilled, they can either warm you up or cool you off, depending on your whim.
Some of you may have noticed, though, that Starbucks’ new treats have the drawback of containing no alcohol at all. Thankfully, if you’re looking for an adults-only sakura-themed beverage, Suntory has you covered.
While Suntory is best known for its whiskeys and beers, the company also produces canned chu-his, carbonated mixtures of shochu and fruit flavors that are also sometimes called “sours” in Japan. With sakura season just around the corner, Suntory has made an addition to its－196°C canned chu-hi line: the Sakura Sakuranbo.
Suntory’s product development team didn’t stutter when picking a name for the drink. While “sakura” generally refers to the cherry blossoms or the treeｓ they grow on, “sakuranbo” is the word for the cherry fruit.
▼ Sakura Sakuranbo in their wild habitat (a grocery store liquor section)
▼ You’re coming with me!
The drink packs a double punch of cherry flavors. Not only is it made with Yamagata’s prized Sato Nishiki cherries, it also contains sakura liqueur. Even if you didn’t know that ahead of time, as soon as you crack open the can the sweet scent of cherries comes floating out of the canister.
Chu-his are generally clear, like the shochu that provides their alcoholic base. Sakura Sakuranbo, though, has a distinct pink tinge to it, reminiscent of the flowers it evokes in its name.
Much like the subtle color of the sakura petals, the hue might not be apparent at first glance, but next to something that’s pure white, there’s a noticeable contrast.
Almost every beverage maker in Japan has its own chu-hi line, and Suntory’s －196°C generally has a harsher alcohol aftertaste than its rivals. However, perhaps in an effort to match the happy yet relaxed atmosphere of a spring afternoon, the Sakura Sakuranbo has enthusiastically sweet cherry flavors as it hits the tongue, with a bit of the tang found in sakura-based Japanese desserts. Initially, it tastes something like a less overpowering cherry Slurpee or Icee frozen beverage, but at the finish there’s a brief, crisp kick of alcohol to be felt.
At just four percent alcohol, the Sakura Sakuranbo takes the opposite tack of the seven, eight, and nine percent chu-his that have been throwing their weight around Japanese cooler cases over the last few years. On one hand, that makes this cherry blossom booze a sub-par vehicle for working your way to a head-splitting hangover as soon as possible. On the other hand, if you’re looking for something unique and refreshing, and also low enough in alcohol content that you can easily enjoy a few during a leisurely cherry blossom viewing party, it’s a viable, and attractive, option.
Sakura Sakuranbo is officially priced at 141 yen (US$1.20), although we found ours selling on the day of its release at a discounted for just 111 yen. It’s available, for a limited time, at supermarkets and convenience stores across Japan.
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