Here’s a new Japanese spirit in town that may begin replacing sake.
Meet Shōchū, a liquor made from sweet potato, barley or rice. While sake is fermented, Shōchū is distilled. Because Shōchū is only distilled once, the alcohol level stays between 20 – 25 percent, making it stronger than sake. Although sake is currently more popular outside of Japan, Shōchū is more widely consumed in Japan.
For those interested in expanding their cocktail pallet, Street’s Fine Chicken recently created a new, Shōchū cocktail, The Flu Shot, made with chicken stock, Japanese Shōchū, lemon, ginger and topped with fresh cracked pepper. It is a unique spin-off of a traditional Hot Toddy. We had the chance to catch up with George Kaiho.
Talk to us a bit about your background in the beverage industry
I grew up in Japan and now work at a bar named Jettison in Dallas, Texas. I also assist with the cocktail creation at Street’s Fine Chicken.
Tell us about Shōchū – Why should bartenders get to know this spirit?
Shōchū is a distilled spirit from Japan that bartenders should get to know because of its diversity within its category and usability in low proof cocktails—it typically has an ABV of 20-25 percent. A low ABV cocktail is a great addition to any bar menu, offering customers a delicious craft cocktail without the harsh, altering effects that high ABV cocktails can have.
The main ingredients in Shōchū are barley, rice, and sweet potato, but there are many other ways to make the spirit—one of my favorites is with sugarcane from the Amami islands. The spirit exudes many different tastes depending on its ingredients—for example, barley tastes toasty, rice tastes delicate and sweet potato tastes rich. Koji, a yeast that is also used in making Sake, is commonly used to ferment Shōchū’s ingredients. Unlike other spirits, Shōchū is only distilled once.
Talk to us about mixing with Shōchū
An easy way to mix the spirit is to use a barley or rice Shōchū instead of vodka in a traditional vodka cocktail—ultimately making it a low ABV cocktail.
Another easy cocktail that bartenders can make is the Shōchū Hi-Ball (called Chu-Hi in Japan). This Hi-Ball is similar to a Japanese Whiskey Hi-Ball and allows bartenders to play with a lot of different flavors. A Chu-Hi is usually served cocktail style and mixed with a fruity, carbonated soda.
One of my personal favorite Shōchū cocktails is the Earth Wind & Fire, made with a sweet potato Shōchū to add richness and mixed with Mezcal and Green Chartreuse.
Tell us about The Flu Shot cocktail
The Flu Shot is based off the classic Bull Shot cocktail made with vodka, beef broth and Worcestershire sauce. Since Street’s Fine Chicken is a southern chicken house, we’ve always wanted to make a cocktail using chicken stock. The first spirit that came to mind when we created the Flu Shot was a nice barley Shōchū with a low ABV. The barley Shōchū brings warmth to the cocktail and compliments the delicate flavors of the chicken stock. Finishing the cocktail with a dash of horse radish adds a pleasant spice, and a pinch of salt and fresh cracked pepper ties everything together.
- 1 oz. Iichiko Silhouette Mugi Shochu
- 4 oz. Chicken Broth
- 1 tsp. Horse Radish
- pinch of Salt
- pinch of Fresh Cracked Pepper
Preparation: Heat Chicken Broth and combine all ingredients in a mug or tea cup.
Give us 3-4 tips to serving/mixing with Shōchū
- The best way to enjoy or serve Shōchū is the traditional Japanese way, in an Oyu Wari. An Oyu Wari is made with a barley Shōchū and simply mixed with hot water. The common ratio for mixing this is 6:4 (6 being Shōchū and 4 being hot water). The water is used to dilute the Shōchū and lower the ABV to a similar percentage as Sake-about 15 percent ABV.
- For bartenders creating cocktail menus, Shōchū is great to sip on during colder weather. The spirit adds a warmth and richness to cocktails that is perfect for the fall/winter.
- There are certain Shōchūs that are better for strictly cocktail mixing rather than just enjoying on the rocks. iichiko Saiten is a great Shōchū for cocktail mixing, made with 100 percent two-row barley and fermented with Koji (adds an umami flavor).