Food & Drink | KONBINI WATCH

The grape race: Suntory's Strong Zero chūhai tops the competition

by Patrick St. Michel

Contributing Writer

A new season means a fresh batch of chūhai cocktail flavors at your local convenience store. With winter on the horizon, the fruit of choice appears to be grape.

Both Suntory’s Strong Zero brand and the dreadfully named Kirin The Strong line of drinks have unveiled a grape variety in time for lower temperatures. The prior promises “triple grape” alongside a 9 percent alcohol content (¥141 after tax) while the latter keeps it simple by offering a more limited grape sour experience (¥141 after tax).

In one of the biggest surprises in recent Konbini Watch memory, Strong Zero’s grape creation is far smoother than the competition. The Kirin grape drink offers the subtlest of fruit flavors, and the real emphasis here seems to be the mouth-stinging sensation of … alcohol. Avoid, avoid, avoid.

The triple grape tastes far superior, and is actually enjoyable to drink. Beverage makers might be embracing the flavor du jour, but not all grape-flavored booze is created equally.