As an avid player of the Ryu Ga Gotoku series of video games, I’ve become more and more familiar with the Suntory brand of alcohol with every passing game. Since I can’t afford their more premium Whisky drinks, I decided to buy the next best thing, their line of Strong Zero alcohol drinks. Let’s see how it went.
I’ve actually seen this drink even before I knew about Suntory. As a casual lover of Japanese beer (Kirin Ichiban being my favorite), I’ve seen pictures of this drink before. The eye-catching aesthetic of the can has always called out to me, but I’ve only ever seen it online, never in convenience stores here in the Philippines.
After seeing it on the Suntory catalog, I decided to find out more about it. The drink is called a Chuhai (ShoChu–Highball) which is Shochu plus carbonated water and a specific fruit which gives it a variety of flavors. A standard can is 350ml with a 9% alcohol content. That’s a lot for a canned drink. Even my favorite local beer, Red Horse, only has 6.9% abv. This is where the Strong in the name Strong Zero comes from. The Zero is from the fact that it has 0% sugar. Low-calorie, high-alcohol. What a great combo.
Strong Zero has a bit of a reputation in Japan as being a “black out drink”. At around 100 Yen per can, it’s easy to buy a lot of these and finish them off quickly. The fact that this drink is available in every convenience store in Japan doesn’t also help the drink’s image. But of course, just like any other alcoholic beverage, it’s up to the drinker to know their limits.
So with my curiosity at its peak, I gave in and ordered from Shopee. I ordered the three most common flavors, Shekwasha, Lemon, and Ripe Plum. After a few days of waiting, they finally arrived.
With my hands trembling, I opened up the can of Ripe Plum and after a pop and a fizz, I poured the contents into a glass. It looked like carbonated soda, but with a brownish hint. You can smell the fruity flavor emanating from the drink.
I took a small sip and was immediately amazed. I was welcomed with something reminiscent of Cali and Smirnoff Mule. But it was the plum flavor that welcomed my tongue and stayed for a while.
Okay, okay. That was the moment I knew why the drink is so dangerous.
The drink went down easy with the alcohol kick being a subtle aftertaste. And the plum flavor (which I thought was peach at first) is very tasty. The carbonation really hides the alcohol well. From just the first sip, I knew that this drink can be easily abused.
It’s crazy how enjoyable this was, especially when it’s ice cold.
But even before I finished the can, I already felt a little buzz. The alcohol really crept in and it’s a good thing I was only limited to a single serving (for now).
Some time after finishing the drink, I felt a bit sleepy and I didn’t know if it’s because of the alcohol or because it’s just the afternoon. But after consulting with my friends who also tasted it, they too felt a bit woozy. I guess that’s what Strong Zero does to you.
As for the other flavors, the Lemon tasted even more like a soft drink, while the Shekwasha had a lesser citrus flavor, but was just as enjoyable. These drinks go down easy like a can of energy drink. You can finish a serving immediately, especially when it’s fresh from the freezer. This is something that must be drunk with a lot of self-control.
For some reason, I felt the alcohol in this drink faster than when I was drinking Soju or Jagermeister. But I also read somewhere that carbonation makes your body absorb the alcohol faster so I guess it’s just Science at work.
Anyway, I loved this drink and I will definitely order more and try the multitude of flavors available. It gets a pass for me and is now my first choice for a quick buzz. While Soju + Yakult is my go-to drink for the after-dinner lull right before bedtime, Strong Zero is a good drink for a round with friends.
I would recommend trying this drink if you can get your hands on it, although I wouldn’t try drinking more than two cans in a single session. If you’ve already tried it, let me know what you think in the comments.