The buzz about shochu

Dear Wine Ladies,

Just back from a weekend in the big apple and apparently the hottest trend right now in the way of cocktails is a drink called shochu. As a bartender on this side of the border I’d like to know more.
Any insight on this would be appreciated.


Dear Jack,

Indeed, the white spirit shochu, that comes from Japan, Korea and a few other far eastern locales does seem to be causing quite a buzz on the cocktail scene, particularly in New York and California. Although a new trend here in North America, this drink has been around… put in it’s time sort of speak, dating as far back as the 1300’s. Sales are booming in Japan, surpassing those of sake with consumers embracing the clean smooth drink for a number of reasons apart from taste; less caloric for one (about 1/3rd that of other liquors) and lower in alcohol than other spirits coming in under 25% for another. Health benefits too are being attributed to shochu, with some imbibers claiming it causes less of a hangover due to the purity of its ingredients, and a paper published by a Japanese medical researcher who surmised shochu helps prevent strokes (email us for details).

What exactly is shochu? Shochu is typically made of rice, barley or sweet potatoes, although some are composed with sugar cane, carrots, buckwheat and even green tea!

What role is shochu taking on closer to home? According to the latest issue of Drinks International, a publication out of the United Kingdom, shochu is finding its niche not only as a very accessible spirit with diverse mixing possibilities, but also as a favored drink straight up allowing its layered flavors of tropical fruits, green olives and rice to be fully appreciated. “Think vodka, only more dynamic and more flavorful” says Steve Bourne, President of SakeOne, a US sake and shochu importer. It’s only a matter of time before shochu hits big here! Jack, why not lead the charge?

Just as sake is routinely enjoyed at sushi bars, shochu too is being paired up with sushi as well as other Japanese-themed bars sometimes referred to as “tapanese”. Once again according to Drinks International, “fusion tapas”, the new and trendy name for small food bites are naturals to enjoy with shochu.

With an aroma similar to that of sake, including hints of mango, kiwi and spice, shochu is catching on with the wine drinking set as well. Hmm, an occasional alternative to a healthy glass of Cabernet perhaps? Bite your tongue! Enjoy and keep us posted!

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