HOW TO ENJOY SHOCHU

A BIT OF HISTORY

Honkaku Shochu (authentic Shochu) is a popular distilled spirit that has been developed over the past five centuries, mainly in southern Kyushu, and is now produced all over Japan.
Sake's (or better : Nihonshu’s) main ingredient is only rice. Shochu, however, can be made from a number of base ingredients, like Imo (Japanese sweet potato), barley, rice, buckwheat, and sugar cane. Because each of these base ingredients brings its own unique flavor to the final product, Honkaku Shochu comes in a wide variety of flavors and tasting notes. It is this larger creative flexibility that provides a variety in flavor and that is behind much of the popularity of Honkaku Shochu in Japan.

SHOCHU VARIETIES

There are two classifications of Shochu in Japan. The first One is Honkaku Shochu (Single distillation Shochu) and the other is Korui Shochu (Consecutive distillation shochu ). These categories are set based on the ingredients and manufacturing method. The word "Honkaku" is translated as traditional, authentic or genuine.
Honkaku Shochu has restrictions on the ingredients and it has to be made by single distillation, which allows Honkaku Shochu to retain the rich flavor and aroma of its main ingredients.
Kourui Shochu is made by consecutive distillation, which creates a clear taste with no aroma more suited for use with cocktail mixers. Their ingredients are varied like molasses, alcohol, and grains. Even though both Honkaku Shochu and Korui Shochu are both called Shochu, they have different qualities and charactors.
The Beneficial Health Effects of Honkaku Shochu

Honkaku Shochu, produced from only natural ingredients, are low-calorie and zero-carbohydrate alcohol beverages. Therefore, blood glucose levels do not rise after consumption.

Honkaku Shochu contains an element that exerts a revitalizing effect on the enzyme urokinaze (thrombus reduction enzyme), which is known to help prevent stroke and heart attacks. It is said that red wine is rich in urokinaze, but the concentration of urokinaze in the blood after drinking Honkaku Shochu or Awamori is 1.5 times higher than after drinking red wine.

Honkaku Shochu is produced with only natural ingredients. Therefore their aromas have aromatherapy effects like natural herbs, bringing you stress relief and relaxation.

Also, Shochu contains less “acetaldehyde” compared with beer and Sake so this may be the reason why it is said that it does cause fewer hangover symptoms compared with other liquors. Acetaldehyde is thought to be a trigger of hangovers, and hangover headaches. Also, in comparison with wine, Shochu does not contain sulfites, which are also thought to contribute to headaches. Sulfite naturally occurs in wine making process, and it is also added, as a preservative, to wine. Both the absence of sulfites and less acetaldehyde, and the overall purity of Shochu as a distilled beverage are thought to contribute to making Shochu less likely to cause hangover symptoms.

Of course, in general, if alcoholic drinks are consumed in the right amount as an accompaniment to food, it is easier to avoid drunkenness. Likewise, even with Honkaku Shochu or Sake, it is important to drink sensibly.

Five Ways To Drink Shochu

Straight Up
On the Rocks
Cold Water
Hot Water
Warm Water
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 Honkaku 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.
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 like our Asakura 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.
  • 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
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. However, another way is to mix with the water more than 24 hours before drinking. 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)
  • 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
  • A high quality water must be selected (soft water with low mineral content)
This method is recommended for people who want to enjoy Umami (flavor) and the aroma that is original to Shochu.
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%.
  • 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
This is a traditional way to serve shochu, but is not  so familiar. Warmed shochu’s soft, mild and sweet taste can be enjoyable, 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 .
At the time of warming, a kuro joka (black pot) is usually heated for warming the Shochu, you may also put the pot 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.
  • 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

SERVING TEMPERATURE

Hot Water
With hot water, the most popular way to dilute is 4 to 6, 5 to 5 or 6 to 4 (Honkaku Shochuto hot water) to adjust the alcohol level to around 15%, the same as that of Japanese Sake. When the temperature is higher, some components in the Shochu or will evaporate, making it more aromatic.
Furthermore, the more alcohol that evaporates, the sweeter and more enticing
the scent. Also, when diluting with hot water, it is best to pour the hot water into the glass first and then add the Shochu gently to allow the two to mix well, adjusting the temperature to best enjoy the flavor.
Cold Water
When diluting with cold water, put some ice in a glass, pour Honkaku Shochu onto it, fill the glass with cold water to adjust the alcohol level to about 10-15%, and mix well. In this way, the aroma of the Shochu becomes milder with a refreshing flavor. If you put ice and Shochu first and then pour cold water gently over it, the Honkaku Shochu will circulate up to the top, making the top part of the drink stronger. In this way, you can enjoy the rich flavor of Shochu with your first few sips, and gradually enjoy a weaker and milder flavor as the Shochu drifts slowly down.
If you want to enjoy the real flavor of Honkaku Shochu, the best way is to drink it straight or on the rocks. However, it is important to pay attention to the alcohol
level, which can be quite strong. Our Shochu aged in oak barrels will work a wonder on the rocks !