Blog: Experience Shochu NYC
Any true fan of a spirits will tell you that it’s necessary to travel beyond your comfort zone when imbibing adult beverages. When you think of Japanese liquor, the first drink that probably comes to mind is sake. In New York City, we love it- hot, cold, cloudy, and sometimes served inside a box. But in a world where variety is king, sake is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Japanese alcoholic beverages. On Monday, the LocalBozo crew headed to NoHo’s Astor Center to sample another exciting drink from Japan, called Shōchū. The event was “Experience Shōchū,” a sample of tastings of the very best of this classic distilled drink.
Before we could have our first sip it was imperative that we knew what this priced spirit was made of and how it should be consumed. Shōchū is generally distilled from barley, sweet potatoes, or rice. Because the drink is 25% ABV (alcohol by volume), it is stronger than its sister beverage sake, and as such, the tasty flavor profile and storng alcohol content neaks up quickly. As I roamed the tasting floor I noticed event-goers consuming the drink either neat, yielding the full flavor with no distractions or on the rocks, with two over-sized ice cubes in the white glass, lessening the full force of the alcohol.
After sufficiently observing the surrounding space, school was out and it was time to taste! The first Shōchū we sampled came from the Iichiko distillery. If you have gone out to Sushi in the past few months, chances are you have seen some of their bottles. Iichiko is a popular brand here in New York City because of their wide variety of flavors and reasonable price point. After deliberating, I opted for their full flavored yet dry Shōchū called, ‘Silhouette.’ The aromas from the nose yielded a spicy meets fruity bouquet and keeping in line with how it should be served, we opted for the ice cubes. As this is a very accessible Shōchū, it was incredibly tasty and thus a true winner in my opinion.
The second stand out Shōchū came from the Komasa Jyozo Company. Our group spent a great deal of time speaking with their representatives about the role of sweet potatoes in creating the celebrated drink. Aged, the sweet potato is often held highly regarded in concocting the finest Shōchū. And to prove it, the Komasa Jyozo Company poured different samples from their distillery, each of which were served a neat to taste every flavored nuance. Although we managed to sip on a few different varieties, it was the, ‘Kozuru Kuro’ that blew us away. This variety is made with 100% sweet potato and malted with black malted rice. The fragrance was literally all over the place with powerful, yet comforting scents. When we finally got around to tasting it we not only drank it, but almost chewed on it to reveal the spicy tones. It became a revelation, and is certainly a variety to seek out when dining on the fare of the Rising Sun.
If you are someone who drinks the same old beer or tired old cocktail every time you go out, it’s time to change your tune. Our good friends in the far east are here to help you get out of your boozy doldrums. Shōchū is not only delicious with a solid alcohol volume but it is produced in such a fine crafted way that makes this spirit a true work of art.
- Jay Rubin