Updated: Oct 31, 2019
Shochu is another alcoholic beverage imported directly from Japan. The difference between Japanese sake and shochu is that Japanese sake is categorized as brewed liquor, but shochu is categorized as distilled liquor and is in the same category as whiskey, scotch, and vodka.
Shochu is made with several raw ingredients and is usually produced in warmer regions like the southern area of Japan. Currently there are approximately 635 different shochu sakaguras (distilleries; Otsu type) that have come a long way in developing many new remarkable shochu's.
Within the past couple of years, there has been a huge shochu boom taking place in Japan, and the consumption of shochu has increased dramatically.
How should I serve shochu?
There is no set rule for drinking shochu, but there are preferred ways to drink it. Generally there are five ways to serve shochu. How it is served changes how one will experience and enjoy the many different characteristic tastes and aromas.
Five Ways To Drink Shochu
1. Straight up - Recommended for all otsu-rui shochu (Imo, kome and mugi shochu etc.)
There should be no water added, cold or hot. Since you can directly taste the unique characteristics produced from the raw materials, the straight up method is recommended for all Otsu-rui shochu that has its own clear or rich taste. The same serving method also works well for aged shochu. Since straight shochu has a high alcohol content, it is best consumed with a chaser.
• It is best to drink with a chaser (an occasional sip of water.)
• Clean taste shochu has to be chilled.
• Rich tasting shochu should be drunk at room temperature.
2. On the rocks - Recommended for kokuto (sugarcane) or mugi (barley) shochu etc.
Shochu served chilled with ice makes you feel refreshed, so young men and women often prefer to drink it this way. Basically this way of serving works well for all kinds of shochu, but is especially good for aged mugi (barley) shochu or Imo (sweet potato) shochu made with koji mold that imparts a very fruity taste.
Generally shochu has to be poured on the ice and mixed well. When the ice melts, it too can also be enjoyed because it offers a taste different from the original beverage.
Tips to Make Shochu on the Rocks
• Good and transparent ice must be used, and the ice should be made with mineral water or with water that has first been boiled
• Three or four big ice cubes are recommended
• Shochu should be poured so it makes contact directly with the ice
3. Water mixed, Mizu-wari - Recommended for mugi (barley) or awamori (Thai rice)
This way is ideal for people who are not partial to strong drinks. The taste will be very soft when the shochu is mixed with water, but the beverage still remains filled with aroma and flavor.
Originally shochu was poured on the ice and water was added right before drinking (shochu 8 : water 2.) However, there is another way to mix with the water if shochu is to be enjoyed to its fullest. Mixing the shochu with water more than 24 hours before drinking is ideal. The molecules of shochu are smaller than thoses of water so it will mix well with water, and this produces a much milder taste (shochu 6 : water 4)
Shochu with Water Formulas and Tips
• It should be mixed with water and has to be left overnight
• The usual ratio of shochu to water is 6 to 4 or 5 to 5
• high quality water must be selected (soft water with low mineral content)
4. Hot water mixed, Oyu-wari - Recommended for imo (sweet potato) shochu
This method is recommended for people who want to enjoy Umami (flavor) and the aroma characteristic of Otsu-rui Shochu, especially Imo (sweet potato) shochu since its imo aroma can be easily detected in the vapor.
The following are some very important guidelines that should always be followed. First, hot water has to be poured into the glass before the shochu is poured. Because the specific gravity of hot water is lighter than that of the shochu, the heavier specific gravity causes the shochu to go down and naturally mix with hot water by convection.
This equalized process produces a natural, mild taste. You don't even need the muddler. The ideal temperature for the hot water is 158 °F (70 °C) (not too hot.) The recommended ratio between shochu and the hot water is shochu 6 : hot water 4; or shochu 5 : hot water 5 if the shochu's alcohol content is 25%.
Shochu with Hot Water Formulas and Tips
• First, add the hot water, and after that the shochu is poured
• Hot water should be approximately 158 °F (70 °C), not too hot
• The recommended ratio between shochu and hot water is 6:4 or 5:5
5. Warmed - Recommended for Imo (sweet potato) or kome (rice) shochu
This is a traditional way to serve shochu, but is not familiar to people in some areas. Warmed shochu's soft, mild and sweet taste can be enjoyed, and the taste will be slightly different from that produced by mixing the shochu with hot water.
First, prepare the water and shochu mixture (6 parts shochu to 4 parts water) and leave it overnight (Kome (rice) shochu is better not mixed with water.)
At the time of warming, a kuro joka (black pot) is usually heated for warmed shochu. The kuro joka (black pot) will be heated by a grill konro (stove) with charcoal, or the kuro joka (black pot) can be placed into boiling water. When vapor starts to come from the spout, you can now enjoy the warmed shochu. It should not be too hot; the temperature has to be approximately 113 °F (45 °C.) Do NOT put in the microwave since shochu heated in a microwave tastes too harsh.
Warmed Shochu Formulas and Tips
• Mixed with water and warmed to lukewarm temperature
• The usual ratio of shochu to water is 6 to 4
• 113 °F (45 °C) is very comfortable to drink
• Do not warm in the microwave