Japan’s oldest and most revered spirit is shochu. Similar to sake, the main difference, is that shochu is created from ingredients such as barley and sweet potato, where sake is made of rice. Shochu is also a distilled spirit, compared to sake’s fermented process. One of the oldest makers of this Japanese delicacy is iichiko, a white spirit that is rich in flavor, and easy to drink with food.
iichiko is made from 100% two-row barley, fermented with koji. Koji is the traditional secret behind Japanese foods famous for umami, like miso and soy sauce. Koji is also used in the production of Sake too! The distillery is a true expression of a perfect natural environment. Crafted in a region famous for its clean air, lush greenery, dense cedar forests, mountainous terrain, and geothermal springs, this ideal area is why iichiko is just so high quality.
I had the pleasure of asking iichiko’s Brand Ambassador, Natasha Sofia a bit more about Japan’s original craft spirit.
Why is Shochu gaining so much in popularity? I think it’s because the flavor profile is so unique and unlike any other spirit that patrons are accustomed to in America. Shochu offers a new layer of versatility for bartenders, which makes it fun for them to play around with and create really different and adventurous cocktails.
What is your favorite way to enjoy Shochu? I love to make a Chu-Hai, which is short for a shochu highball, made with iichiko and fruit juice. My favorite fruit juice to pair with this is yuzu when available.
So shochu is Barley and Koji, how would you compare it to Sake? The main difference is shochu is distilled and Sake is brewed. In comparison they both bring to the table very different flavor profiles that share beautiful complexities of flavor but are significantly different to each other.
After all this Shochu reading, I thought it was time to try some for myself! I tried the Gimlet as well as a did a little spin on one of their Pineapple cocktails I saw from the site. They have a number of different easy to find ingredient cocktails on their site here.
If you’re looking for something new to add to your cocktails, then Sochu is simply the best! It’s smooth, easy to drink, and compatible with so many juices, spirits, and more!
Always remember eat what you like and drink what you love. Please pair responsibly!