It would seem that Japan doesn’t have the same aversion to high alcohol beverages that the United States and other Western countries do. Just look at Four Loko, a high-ABV beverage that was outright banned in several states and very nearly led to the downfall of American civilization as we know it, according to recent media coverage.
But in Japan, there’s no stigma to canned, high alcohol drinks. Japan’s native canned cocktail, the Chu-Hi, has come in 8% and 9% ABV versions since the early 2000s at least. But strong Chu-Hi and, really, most normal Chu-Hi, kind of taste like poison.
In an effort to create a more palatable high alcohol drink, Asahi recently introduced “Hi Liki The Special Strong,” a new beverage that comes in a variety of flavors, is high in alcohol content, and actually tastes pretty decent. Before you ask, though, we have no idea who Liki is or why Asahi felt the need to greet him/her right there on every can of this peculiarly-named beverage.
We decided to give these new drinks a try. Here are our impressions – or, the best of what we remember of our impressions …
(We only tried two of the five flavors available, because a) we’re not crazy enough to try them all in one sitting and, b) it seems most convenience stores are only stocking the most delicious of the flavors: Grape and Blood Orange).
The grape flavored Hi Liki was a pleasant surprise. At 8% alcohol, it packs a punch, but tastes exactly like candy and happiness; Fitting, since, after pouring it into a transparent glass, we realized it not only tastes like, but also looks a lot like cotton candy.
Bizarrely, the flavors in the Hi Liki series all have different alcohol percentages, with Grapefruit and Cassius Orange being the highest at 9%, and Blood Orange and Lemon being the lowest at 7%. It’s almost as if Asahi did some kind of survey that found those who enjoy Grapefruits tended to have the highest rate of alcoholism or something. Also, God help you if you prefer grapefruit over other fruit flavors.
Blood Orange, while still great compared to most Chu-Hi, definitely has that “fruit that sat out until it partially decayed and became alcoholic” flavor common of Chu-Hi. It’s certainly delicious, but there’s a chemical bite that’s hard to pinpoint (whale tears?), and the color sort of reminds us, unsurprisingly, of pee. Still, it’s probably a better choice than most of the faux beers you can find in Japan!
And on a beer note, you can read the results of our budget beer taste test here.