Humidity in Japan is pretty high so sometimes it feels colder than dry air, the reason being that high humidity in lower temperatures increases the conduction of heat from the body so Japan`s winter can be quite rough in some areas. The last thing you feel like doing after freezing through a work day is come home to find out that the inside of the fridge is warmer than your apartment. It might be better to leave anything you want to keep cold on the balcony instead of the fridge!
However, here`s our guide to survive this cold season with a few hot drinks to get you through the winter blues and warm you from the inside out!
The real key to enjoying this Japanese beverage in winter is a shot of hot boiling water.
Mixed with the right amount, hot water transforms this formidable drink from simply alcoholic to light and mild. Mix and match the consistency as you like, but the standard bar will serve it to you at 2/3 shochu, 1/3 hot water, whereas I personally prefer half and half.
Typically, shochu ranges from 20 to 25% alcohol.
Again, delicious enough on its own, especially over ice, this plum wine is lighter than shochu – around 10 to 15% depending on the brand. The balance with this should be lighter to allow for a mild, less alcoholic bedtime tonic. Shoot for 1/4 to 2/3 hot water, 1/2 to 1/3 room temperature umeshu.
Sake is the definitive Japanese beverage, ranging in alcohol content from 14 to 20 %. Not that most people would make this mistake, but be sure to buy DRINKING Sake, not the kind for cooking(料理酒/ryouri sake). They both have alcohol in them, but then again, so does Listerine. The drinking one is the one you want.
You can buy a big bottle of Sake, and heat it up in a sake decanter in either a pot of boiling water or the microwave. If you choose to use a pot, bring the water to a boil, turn off the heat and immerse the decanter (with the top wrapped in cling wrap) for 2-3 minutes. Pour into a glass that has been rinsed in boiling water, and enjoy! If you make this drink in the microwave, put a microwave-safe decanter into the microwave with the mouth covered in cling wrap. Microwave on medium (600W) for 20 seconds, swirl the sake around in the decanter, and microwave for another 20 seconds.
Or, just buy a smaller bottle of sake from a convenience store or supermarket, pop it in some hot water or the bathtub, and get your sake on that way.
If you`re not that into alcohol, you can try Amazake(甘酒), a low-alcohol traditional Japanese drink made from fermented rice. It has a sweet taste, thick texture and sometimes is even used as a dessert, dressing or snack.
It is very popular during this period and some shrines even provide or sell it during New Years. Depending on the recipe, there are cases when the sweetness develops naturally and cases when sugar is needed; traditionally, the amazake is being prepared using water and amazake, heated until simmered with a pinch of ginger.
As it contains many vitamins and dietary fiber, the traditional hot drink is also very nutritious, good for your health and the perfect drink for winter!
Hopefully, these options will help you beat the cold and get warm from within.
Raise your glasses and Kanpai! (Cheers)