Healthy Vinegar Drinks
A delicious variety of vinegar drinks are available
Vinegar has long been an essential seasoning in Japanese cuisine, but recently it’s taking on another role as Japan’s latest health trend.
For hundreds of years, vinegar has been considered a tonic of sorts—not just in Japan, but around the world. Vinegar is believed to counter fatigue, improve appetite and blood circulation, and lower cholesterol. While some sip small amounts of pure vinegar, most dilute it with water.
Over the last several years, a host of vinegar drinks that do not require dilution have appeared on the Japanese market. Some of these have become quite popular, including kurozu, black rice vinegar and various types of fruit vinegars. All of these vinegars are milder than regular vinegar, as they are made especially for drinking, but they can also be used for cooking.
Fruit vinegars are made from a variety of fermented fruits such as apples, blueberries, raspberries or grapes. To entice vinegar initiates, these may sometimes be mixed with water, milk or fruit juices.
Kurozu is aged vinegar made from unpolished rice or barley. It is brewed in ceramic pots for months or even years, after being inoculated with koji mold—the same mold used in producing soy sauce and other traditional Japanese fermented foods.
Dark brown in color with a delicious aroma, kurozu is rich in acetic acid, vitamins and minerals, and is often blended with fruit juice or honey to appeal to even the most timid palate.
Once rarely found outside health food stores, today’s vinegar drinks are mainstream, earning fans among young and old, men and women. In some department stores, “vinegar sommeliers” explain tempting new ways to enjoy vinegar, such as combining it with yogurt or ice cream.
A delicious and ever-growing variety of vinegar drinks are available in supermarkets, vending machines and—for those on the go—at stand-up “vinegar bars” in some train stations. Here one can enjoy a shot of straight vinegar, or vinegar mixed with water or milk, as well as vinegar juice mixes, smoothies and even vinegar-infused foods for a quick health break between train rides.