Apr 23 2007
Shochu, a spirit distilled from Barley or Rice, has quickly gained popularity over the past couple of years. Just a few years ago, shochu was mostly only available in Korean restaurants and markets, but today a wide variety of shochu, including those from Japan and Korea, are available in Asian markets and restaurants. Even Whole Foods, Safeway and Trader Joes are jumping on the shochu bandwagon.
Shochu is often compared to sake, but the two spirits are very different. Shochu has a stronger alcohol flavor, unlike the mostly smooth flavor of sakes. This gives shochu a noticable bite that, depending on the shochu, can be simply overwhelming, or a nice complement to a meal. Barley shochus also have a bit of scotchiness in my opinion as well.
I bought Japansch Zaky’s Shochu at Mitsuwa yesterday. I haven’t seen this brand before, but it seemed to be pretty legit - and by legit, I mean other real j’s were buying it. It also came complete with fobby grammar, “aging 3 years.”
The Japansch has a strong flavor of alcohol, and a slight smokiness. The color of the liquor is amber, and I think if you continued to age it, it would eventually turn into something similar to a scotch.
You can drink shochu neat, on the rocks, or even mixed with flavored syrup. I like it ume wari style, which means you mix it with hot water and ume, and then mash up the ume and stir.
This worked well for the Japansch actually, because it’s flavor really complements the ume. It also makes the shochu warm, which is nice to drink on cold nites.
I have just recently started trying out different shochus, so I don’t really have a good palette developed yet. But in my opinion, the Japansch, despite the strange name, was very good. It had a bit more complexity than the basic ‘alcohol flavor’ shochu, indicated by its amber color (many shochus are clear). I would suggest it either neat or with ume wari. I think rocks would dilute it down too much.