Sake is not the only alcoholic beverage from Japan. There is another one that is just as famous. The name of this spirit is shochu. Let us tell you more about the different types, how it differs from soju, and how to drink it. Ready?
What Is It?
Shochu is a distilled liquor from Japan. It has a long history and tradition, dating to as far back as the 16th century. Unlike sake, another spirit from Japan, shochu is made from various base ingredients such as sweet potatoes, buckwheat, barley, and rice. Thanks to the base ingredient variations, the taste of the spirit varies widely. In terms of alcohol content, it is the middle ground between hard liquor and sake. It has average alcohol by volume (ABV) of 25%.
Here are the most common:
This variant is made from rice. It has a bit milder flavor making it an excellent choice for beginners. The aroma will remind you of sake. After all, both of them have the same base ingredient.
This variant is made from sweet potatoes. Spirits of this variant usually have a strong flavor and aroma, so they may not be the best choice if this is your first time drinking shochu.
It is another excellent choice for beginners. This variant is easy to drink and has a mild taste. It is made from barley.
This is not a common variant but definitely worth a sip if you can find it. The Kokuto variant is made from brown sugar.
This is a relatively new variant, being only about 40 years old. It has a mild flavor. The Soba variant is made from buckwheat.
Are Shochu and Soju the Same?
The names sound similar but the two spirits are different. Soju comes from Korea. Soju is a clear spirit typically made from rice. There are, however, soju made from other ingredients like sweet potatoes or wheat as well. Compared to shochu, soju usually tastes sweeter. This is so because, during the production process, sugar is added to the spirit. This doesn’t happen on its Japanese counterpart, however. In terms of alcohol content, the two spirits are similar, averaging 25% ABV.
How to Drink
There are so many ways to enjoy shochu. Here are the three most common:
Shochu can be quite strong. If you are not a fan of strong alcoholic beverages, we recommend mixing the spirit with water. Either cold or hot water is fine. If you use hot water, make sure to pour it before the spirit. If you want a milder taste, you can mix the spirit with water about 24 hours before you drink it.
On the rocks
Want to enjoy the exquisite spirit in a more refreshing way? Drink it on the rocks. This is the most common way to enjoy the sweet potato or barley variants.
Some people prefer to enjoy the spirit the way it is. If you like that also, just pour the spirit and enjoy it at room temperature or chilled. Either way is fine. Just keep in mind that IT’S strong, so you might want to take a sip of water after drinking it.