This ancient Japanese spirit is booming in bars around the world
Shochu is proving popular with spirit-drinkers in New York and London
Traditional spirits are having a renaissance in the West. While different types of gin and whisky are streaming into cocktail bars and distilleries in Europe and America, Japan is having the same comeback. Shochu is a traditional spirit that can be traced back to the 16th century. Interest in the drink has shot up recently, introducing the beverage to a new generation. Shochu is known for having health benefits, along with ingredients considered alternative in the West, like beans and chestnuts.
Usually sochu is distilled from starches such as rice, barley, buckwheat, or even potato. The brew matures for months in an oak container, before being served neat on the rocks or blended with juices. You can even enfuse the drink with flavours like plum, ginger, or green tea. The result is described as “similar to vodka but generally far smoother” by 1843 magazine. The popularity is spreading overseas, with bars in America and the UK opening bars specialising in shochu and Japanese restaurants in London and New York adding shochu to their liquor lists. For an inventive drink with a storied history, grab a glass of shochu.
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