The Biggest Shochu Event!

With the popularity of sake over the last 10 years, you can imagine how many sake training sessions I've taught to the service staff at numerous restaurants.  Having attended the recent Mutual Trading Restaurant Expo and sampling many different sake, it was good to be able to compare with today's Shochu tasting.  But I have to admit, I really don't know much about Shochu...

Over the last 5+ years, I've heard talk about Shochu, but it didn't sound like they knew any more than I did.  So when I was invited to "The Biggest Shochu Event" by the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), I jumped at the chance to learn more and be able to share with you.

The Biggest Shochu Event
(Japan External Trade Organization)

First, the difference between sake and shochu?  In a nutshell, sake is a fermented alcoholic beverage and shochu is a distilled alcoholic beverage.  I always thought of it as a Japanese vodka, since it's distilled.  What I didn't know, Shochu is made from rice, barley or sweet potatoes, each giving a slightly different flavor and aroma.  There's another one from Okinawa called Awamori (which uses Thai rice and black koji).   

Shochu Seminar

The basic ingredient in shochu making is koji, a mold (Aspergillus oryzae) used to start the shochu making process.  Other factors in making shochu include; the main ingredients (rice, barley, sweet potato, brown sugar, etc.), water, region climate, aging, and storage containers also play a part in production.  Each region and brewery has their own distinct flavor and aroma to their product line.

Types of Shochu
  • Barley:  Clean and dry flavor, paired with tempura or yakitori.
  • Rice:  Elegant and smooth flavor, paired with sashimi or miso marinated fish.
  • Sweet Potato:  Pronounced and roasted flavor, paired with steak, cheese dishes, pizza, or Chinese dishes. 
  • Awamori:  Rounded sweet flavor (Thai Rice with Black Koji), paired with pork chops or lasagna.
  • Sugar Cane:  Rum like flavor with sweet finishing aroma.

Let's see what Jay Eats
or in this case Drinks...

Tasting and Pairing Time!
Walking into the Tasting Room,
where does one begin?

18 Shochu companies represented, along with
5 distributors, and 50+ shochu products to taste...

This was a great product line up

Yatsushika Brewery Co., Ltd
line up of products.

Barley Shochu Iki
by Genkai Shuzo Co., Ltd

Tuna Carpaccio
paired with Barley Shochu

One of the most popular shochu brands
that I've seen in retail stores and restaurants.

Iichiko Frasco
by Sanwa Shurui Co., Ltd
Oita, Japan

A Barley Shochu
in a container that tells me
this is something different than sake.

Ginza No Suzume Kohaku

A mellow color that has been aged
in oak bourbon whiskey barrels.

Ginza No Shzume Kohaku
mentioned in the Los Angeles Times

Lots of people, lots of Shochu

Pear and Brie in Phyllo
paired with Rice Shochu

Aged in whiskey barrels for 30 years

Nice and smooth


A traditional Okinawan Awamori container

I saw a lot of these in Japan

A Special Edition Godzilla Shochu Container
A limited edition licensed product

Only 30 sold in the U.S.
out of 300 produced.

The Sweet Potato Shochu Section

Too many choices...

Mini Beef Wellingtons
paired with Sweet Potato Shochu

Cocktail Time!

Recipe courtesy of 
Ikinokura Distillery Co., Ltd.

Ninja Refresher

1.5 oz (40 mL) Ikinoshima™ Shochu

1/2 (30 mL) Fresh squeezed limes

Ginger Ale

1 or 2 Shiso leaves
Collins Glass

Put shiso leaves in bottom of glass. Add lime
and Ikinoshima™ Shochu. Muddle the mixture
until the leaves are fully crushed.  Add ice and
top with Ginger Ale. 

Cocktail mixes with fruit flavors

Recipe courtesy of 
Ikinokura Distillery Co., Ltd.

Rising Passions

1.25 oz (40 mL) Nadeshiko™ Shochu
1/2 oz (15 mL) Passion Liqueur
1/4 oz (5 mL) Fresh squeezed lemon
Highball or Tropical cocktail glass

Add the Nadeshiko™ Shochu, passion liqueur
and lemon juice to an ice filled mixing glass.
Mix and pour mix into tropical cocktail glass.
Garnish lavishly.

Here's my favorite picks...
(cause they're so different)

(A coffee flavored Shochu)
from Fukano Shuzou Co., Ltd.

A different tasting shochu,
but it worked for me.

Yuzu Liqueur
from Ikinokura Distillery Co., Ltd.
Nagasaki, Japan

A natural barley liqueur with yuzu (Japanese citrus)
makes for a refreshing shochu

Sengetsu Shuzo Co., Ltd

Love's in the Air
A shiso flavored shochu.
A rice shochu with red perilla (shiso)
and great tasting.

This product will become a hit
if promoted correctly.

Do I think Shochu will succeed in the American market?  I do, with the right branding and promotional message.  To find out what it is, you'd have to hire me...  

This was a huge learning experience for me and have a better understanding of the industry.  If branded and staff trained right, Shochu could exceed the demand for sake in the U.S. 

 I thank JETRO for the invitation!

Ikinokura Distillery Co., Ltd.
Mutual Trading Co., Inc.
Sengetsu Shuzo Co., Ltd.
Wine Warehouse

Photos by Jay Terauchi
Jay Eats
©Jay Terauchi


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