When you think of alcohol that might be popular in Japan what first springs to mind? Sake is probably the first. It is after all a drink invented in Japan also known as Japanese rice wine.
How about a second guess? Possibly Shochu? Shochu is another quintessentially Japanese liquor. This one is typically made by distilling rice, sweet potatoes, or brown sugar.
Beer is also very popular in Japan. It accounts for two-thirds of all alcohol consumed in Japan. The most popular styles of beer in Japan are on the light side like lagers and pilsners. Sapporo, Kirin Lager, or Asahi Super Dry all come to mind.
Japanese whisky is another spirit that has a long history in Japan. You might remember Bill Murray’s character in Lost In Translation shooting commercials for Suntory Whisky. “For relaxing times, make it Suntory time” was his big line in the movie.
Suntory also produces another spirit that may be lower on the list of popular liquor in Japan. That other Suntory spirit is Roku Gin.
That’s right gin is taking off in Japan after long being linked to Europe. Roku Gin is the brand that is leading the charge.
A Brief History of Roku Gin
Gin has not been one of the more popular spirits in Japan until very recently. The last five years or so have seen more and more gin distillers popping up all over Japan.
Roku Gin is a major part of that surge. In addition to growing in Japan, Roku Gin has been making its way to more places including the United States. It doesn’t hurt that Roku is owned by Suntory which has a long history of distribution throughout the world.
Suntory which is alternately known as Beam Suntory or Suntory Spirits Limited has been around for over 200 years. Their portfolio has been expanded from primarily Japanese brands to a large chunk of respected spirits throughout the world.
Some of the major brands under the Suntory umbrella are Jim Beam, Sauza Tequila, Pinnacle Vodka, Maker’s Mark Bourbon, and of course Roku Gin.
Roku Gin is not a gin like many others you may have encountered. Roku Gin is definitely made with a nod to delicate Japanese flavors. Most gin has a heavy juniper flavor profile. While Roku Gin does still contain juniper it leans heavier on Japanese botanicals.
As Roku means “six” in Japanese the six botanicals used are green tea, gyokuro tea, sansho pepper, sakura flower, sakura leaf, and yuzu peel.
How are those six botanicals made into gin? Well, Roku Gin does use those six Japanese botanicals but they also use eight traditional gin ingredients. The botanicals are infused into a neutral spirit, distilled to purify, and then bottled up.
Extra special care is taken for Roku Gin production. The Japanese botanicals are distilled using a blend of pot stills to get the perfect flavor. The result is a complex and nuanced gin.
Roku Gin Prices, Variations & Sizes
Roku Gin has only been around since 2017 and has not entered its experimental stage yet. As such, there is only one type and size of Roku Gin. This is actually not that uncommon for gin brands.
Well-known brands of vodka, whisky, rum, and tequila are more likely to have larger portfolios. Those other spirits more lend themselves to the addition of extra flavors or aging in various wooden casks.
As for gin, you may see an Old Tom variation (aged in a whisky barrel) or possibly a different blend of botanicals. Other than that you expect to see a small range of options which is the case with Roku Gin.
What are the main characteristics of the one variety of Roku Gin that we have? Roku Gin is made with 14 botanicals. Eight of these are more traditional gin ingredients including juniper berry, angelica seed, angelica root, cardamom seed, cinnamon, coriander seed, lemon peel, and orange peel.
The other six are the Japanese botanicals that set this craft gin apart from the crowd. The combination of green tea, gyokuro tea, sansho pepper, sakura flower, sakura leaf, and yuzu peel really shines.
As previously stated, Roku means “six” in Japanese which is also a reference to the number of Japanese botanicals. Another place the six comes into play is with the bottle the Roku Gin comes in.
The bottle is simple with a beautiful label. It’s also a hexagonal-shaped bottle which has – you guessed it six sides.
Roku Gin is considered a premium craft gin. Roku Gin is priced above some gins on the market but it’s definitely not the most expensive gin out there. Roku Gin is actually quite a value considering the care with which it’s made.
Roku Gin Price?
Roku Gin comes in one size, the standard 750 ml bottle, in the, not as standard hexagonal shape. In addition to the unique flavor profile, it is also a bit more potent than your average spirit.
Most liquor is 80 Proof but Roku Gin is 86 Proof (43 percent alcohol by volume).
- 750 ml, From $31.99
Roku Gin Alternatives and Comparisons
Roku Gin is a distinctive gin but there are some alternatives whether the point of comparison is the country it’s produced in, the flavor profile, or by price.
If you’re looking for gin produced in Japan, two great options are Ki No Bi Kyoto Style Dry Gin and Nikka Coffey Gin.
Nikka Coffey Gin has some similar botanicals but leans heavily on the yuzu fruit as well. Nikka Coffey Gin is about $17 more than Roku but it could be worth a try.
Speaking of more expensive, look no further than Ki No Bi Kyoto Style Dry Gin. This is another very high-quality Japanese gin that comes in at more than double the price of Roku Gin.
If the botanical flavor is the main replacement criteria then The Botanist Islay Dry Gin is an option. The Botanist uses 22 botanicals from Islay in Scotland. The Botanist is also more expensive than Roku but only by around $10 a bottle.
For a still high quality but more similar price point to Roku give Aviation Gin a try. Aviation American Gin is also heavily botanical and is partially owned by celebrity Ryan Reynolds.
How to Drink Roku Gin
Roku Gin is a versatile spirit that can be enjoyed in many ways. It can be served neat, over ice, mixed with tonic water, or added to a gin cocktail.
Due to its unique flavor profile don’t expect your normal gin and tonic to taste normal. It will still taste great but the Roku Gin will give it a life of its own. Roku Gin is also a great base for a Martini.
FAQ – Roku Gin
Is Roku Gin gluten-free?
Roku Gin is gluten-free! One of the base ingredients in the base alcohol is molasses which does not contain gluten. Even if any of the ingredients or botanicals did contain gluten the distillation process removes gluten from the end product.
Is Roku Gin vegan?
Roku Gin is vegan. It is rare for liquor to contain animal products but there are instances where a filtering or fining process uses animal byproducts. That is not the case here with Roku Gin and the company has stated that the gin is “suitable for vegans”.
What do you mix with Roku Gin?
You can always try mixing Roku Gin up in a traditional cocktail like a Gin and Tonic but here are some exciting recipes you just might love:
- 1 ½ oz Roku Gin
- 2 ¼ oz Club Soda
- 2 ¼ oz Tonic Water
- Yuzu Twist (for Garnish)
Fill a highball glass with ice and incorporate the liquid ingredients. Garnish with a yuzu twist and serve.
- 1 ½ Parts Roku Japanese Gin
- ½ Parts Simple Syrup
- 4 ½ Parts Chilled Premium Soda Water
- Mint Leaf (for Garnish)
Fill a highball glass with ice and add the Roku Gin and simple syrup. Top with cold soda water, stir well and garnish with a mint leaf.
- 1 ½ Parts Roku Gin
- 1 Part Lemon Juice
- ½ Part Simple Syrup
- 2 Parts Club Soda
- Cherry (for Garnish)
- Lemon Slice (for Garnish)
Combine Roku Gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Strain into a collins glass over ice, top with club soda, and garnish with the cherry and lemon slice.
Interesting Facts & Myths
Roku, the streaming device and name you might recognize from a smart television in your very own home, has no official affiliation with Roku Gin. You are still encouraged to enjoy a delicious Roku Gin cocktail the next time you watch Netflix or Hulu.