After the last review on Nanotech, I need a little diversion to loosen myself from the seriousness of the matter discussed. Iichiko Shochu is a great way to relax oneself with. I was introduced to this alcoholic cocktail in Tokyo and have since got hooked on it. Strawberry Daiquiri while in America, Sangria in Europe and Grapefruit Shochu while in Japan. 3 of my favorite cocktails. And, if you are looking for a gift for friends, this one is available at a mere 500 yen (for the smallest bottle on sale) which you can get from the airport shops in Narita.
I love Shochu that's blended with grapefruit juice, the one that restaurants all over Japan serves. I think there are some sold in the stores as canned cocktails but I have yet had a chance to try them. Hence, no idea if they are as good.
Shochu is not Sake. While Shochu is distilled spirit (think Vodka, it's similar), Sake is brewed. Shochu is produced in all parts of Japan but its main home is Kyushu Island (most southern part of Japan). The alcohol content of Shochu is usually around 25% or less (by law, it has to be 45% or less). That's great for those who are allergic to alcohol (well, not entirely allergic, like me) and when mixed with hot water with salty ume plums or oolong tea or fruit juices (peach, orange or grapefruit), it is a very mild alcoholic drink. The good news about this drink is that it is low in calories (15-20 cal. per ounce).
As with Vodka, Shochu can be distilled from ingredients that contain natural sugar (ie. rice, potato, wheat & barley). Yeast is then added to the sugary water & the mixture is converted into alcohol before the distillation process.
There are 2 main types of Shochu:
Otsurui : Distilled only once & consumed on the rocks.
Korui : Distilled several times & mostly consumed in cocktails.
As you can now see, it's a very versatile drink. However, it's not commonly known outside Asia. So, when you are having a party in the future, try serving it and see how your guests react to this drink. Try something new instead of serving the same old drinks. It may just surprise you how much others like it. Serve it as a cocktail with barbeques or tempuras. It's a great combo! If you can find some Chuhai in your neighborhood, that's a great way to introduce the drink. Try it first on your own as I haven't tasted Shochu in canned version, so you'll have to risk it on your own. Otherwise, get Iichiko and start testing it with your favorite fruit juices. I'm sure you'll love it!
Shōchū is a distilled beverage native to Japan. It is most commonly distilled from barley, sweet potatoes, or rice. Typically, it contains 25% alcohol by volume (weaker than whisky or standard-strength vodka but stronger than wine and sake).
Shōchū is produced everywhere in Japan, yet the home of shochu is Kyūshū island.