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The Japanese Alcohol; 5 Basics Divas Want to Know About Shochu

5 basics divas want to know about shochuFood & Drinks
Food & Drinks
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I often use the term, “Shochu”, when I talk about Japanese drinking culture,

do you know Shochu?

“Shochu”(焼酎) is one of representative alcohol in Japan, “shochu” is the second consumed alcohol following Japanese sake.

You can purchase “shochu” in the US or your country, the most popular is “Iichiko”,

I am going to explain what shochu is, and how you can enjoy it.

Know The Basic

“Shochu”(焼酎) is a representative “Distilled liquor” in Japan.
You may have heard “Japanese Shochu”, “Japanese vodka” or “Japanese distilled spirits” in English.

“Shochu” has several kinds of flavor depends on its main ingredients such as potatoes, rice, barley.

Alcohol content is from 20% to 45% ABV, generally around 25% ABV.

(40% ABV in Vodka or Gin)

Also, “Shochu” is categorized by producing process, the traditional process, high-quality shochu (乙類焼酎, Otsuruishochu) and modern process (multiple-distilled), moderate-quality shochu (甲類焼酎, koruishochu).

Besides, top-quality of Otsuruishochu is called “Honkaku shochu” (本格焼酎) is, genuine shochu, single-distilled, allowing it to use only carefully selected ingredients.

By the way, “Soju” is Korean liquor.

The difference between Shochu and Sake

Japanmcconnell tips, the difference between sake & shochu

Simply the big difference between sake and shochu is sake is a “brewed sake” made by fermenting rice. Shochu is a “distilled liquor” that has undergone a process called “distillation” based on brewed liquor made by fermenting various ingredients.

The main ingredient of Sake is “rice”, and major kinds of shochu is made from “barley”, “potatoes”, “sugarcane” and “rice”.

Although rice is used as the main ingredient for both, there are differences.

The rice for making Shochu is regular edible rice for food, but one used for sake is the special rice to be used for making Sake only, which contains more protein, rich flavor, and large grain.

Also, the alcohol contents are different, Sake has 15% ABV and Shochu have 20% to 40% AVB.

To taste, Sake is enjoyable with straight, (with cold, warm and hot temperature)

Shochu has several ways to enjoy such as straight, on the rock, highball and so on.

The Different Flavor

It is interesting that “Shochu” flavor differs dramatically depend on the main ingredients, quality, and process.

Sometimes you can’t believe it is the same spirits.

  1. Barley
  2. Potatoes
  3. Rice
  4. Awamori
  5. Kokutou

Barley (Mugi, 麦)


Shochu made from barley is called “Mugi Jochu”(麦焼酎).

“Mugi Jochu” has high alcohol content but it is a clear, dry taste and light cense among kinds of Shochu, great for a “Shochu” beginner.

“Shochu”??? “Jochu”???

The proper word is “Shochu” but in Japanese grammar, it sometimes changes sounds in certain uses. 

Potatoes (Imo, 芋)

mojochu, kagoshima

Shochu made from potatoes is called “Imo Jochu”(芋焼酎).

Commonly, Japanese sweet potatoes are used for “Imo Jochu”.

“Imo shochu” with a strong individuality centered on Kagoshima and Miyazaki prefectures in Kyusyu island. There are many variations, from those with sweetness and flavor like potatoes to those with fruity aroma.

The taste varies by kinds of sweet potatoes, but “Imo Jochu has a uniquely rich and sweet flavor like potatoes to those with a fruity aroma.

If you have had “potato vodka”, it’s not very similar, yet it gives you some hints to describe the ‘Imo jochu” taste.

Someone says “Imo Jochu” is close to tequila flavor, but I am not sure…

Rice (Kome, 米)

kome, shochu, mirin

Shochu made from potatoes is called “Kome Jochu”(米焼酎).

“Rice”- Japanese people love.
Not only eating, but it has also been used as a base of Japanese sake and Shochu.

“Kome jochu” is smooth, and slightly milky and also smooth to drink as well as Mugi Jochu.

The subtle sweetness of rice even gives you a fruity flavor like “Japanese Sake”.


awamori, okinawa, shochu

“Awamori”(泡盛) is the local Shochu made in Okinawa prefecture.

It has a “unique strong scent” andstimulating taste”, so it’s a taste that people either love or hate.

It is made from long-grain rice from Thailand and Okinawa prefecture, for Awamori, black “Koji” must be used that infused unique strong flavor.

“Koji”(麹) is cooked rice that has been inoculated with Aspergillus oryzae, a mold, which is the essential ingrediants to make sake, miso, soy sauce, AND SHOCYU.

“Awamori” has been loved for long Okinawa history, and the alcohol content is higher than other Shochu so beginners may want to start lower ABV (25%) to taste for the first time.

Brown Sugar (Kokutou, 黒糖)

sakurajima, kagoshima, volcano, Japan

Shochu called “Kokutou shochu”(黒糖焼酎) is made from genuine brown sugar farmed in Kagoshima prefecture.

The sweet and fruity aroma from sugarcane and its soft texture is attractive.

It is called “Japanese rum” and features a unique Western sweet scent that is not found in other shochu.

“Kokutou shochu” and rum are made from the same sugar cane, but “Kokutou shochu” uses “Koji” in the manufacturing process, while rum uses only sugar cane molasses.

Moreover, it is not allowed to add any additives outside of water due to the regulation to sell as “Honkaku Shochu”, and only one produced in the Amami archipelago, Kagoshima prefecture, is called as “Kokutou Syochu”.

Shochu For Diet?!

It is an endless dilemma for us about the relationship between drinking alcohol and diet.

Find out the basic calories and sugar contents.

Is shochu a “fat liquor”? I’m curious. I compared the ingredients with other sake.

RED Wine852.610.07
White Wine832.60.07

It is too fast to be shocked by the calories of Shochu and whiskey at first glance!

“Shochu” and “whiskey” has higher alcohol contents so numbers of calories get high, but generally theses alcohol are enjoyable with a small amount such as “on the rocks” or mixed with soda.

Surely beer is low in calories in the table, but people likey to be able to keep drinking beers or wines due to due to the lower alcohol contents.

*a calories of your favorite beer (External Link)

Usually, the amount of 1 shot at bars is 30ml (in Japan), 1.25–1.5 US fl oz (In the US), so you can make 3 glasses of mixed drink with 100g(100ml) Shochu.

Besides, “distilled liquor” has sugar-free such as Shochu, whiskey, vodka, and gin.

Speaking about Japanese Shochu, you may be aware of “Otsurui Shochu” aka “white liquor” which usually used for a mixed drink. Some Otsurui shochu is added sugar as flavor. If it’s available, choose one said “Sugar-Free”- “糖質0”.

toushitsu zero, suga free, canned chuhai

today's phrase 9

• Can you believe you can drink beer during Keto Diet?

Recommend Drinks

shochu on the rock

Experts may say “drink straight or on the rock are the best way to taste Shochu without killing its aroma and flavor”, but it is not the only way to enjoy “Shochu”.

Like people who are not strong for alcohol beverages still have fun to taste, there are several ways to enjoy “Shochu” smoothly and tasty.

“Shochu” has a unique flavor and aroma as I mentioned, so some people can’t stand it.

My husband, he likes drinking (according to him, he is Irish-American), but he doesn’t like “Shochu” much.

But he loves “Chuhai” and “Sour” that I am going to talk about in this section.

Mizuwari, Oyuwari

“Mizuwari” (水割り), “Oyuwari”(お湯割り) are popular a smooth way to taste “Shochu” especially for who want to taste “Unique shochu aroma and flavor”.

Misuwari is mixing cold water and ice, Oyuwari is mixing boiled water (not piping hot).

  • Mizuwari...Better put ice and shochu in a glass first, and pour water gently, stir well.
  • Oyuwari …Better pour boiled water in a cup first, then pour Shochu gently. If so, its aroma stands out.

Chu Hi


Somehow all American people who I know are addicted “ChuHi” very much.

“Shochu highball” aka “ChuHi”(チューハイ)is the very popular and representative cocktail of “Shochu”.

“Highball” is technically cocktail mixed with sprite and carbonated liquids, like “Whiskey highball”I talk about here.

Originally, “Chuhi” was used to be “Shochu highball” mixed with carbonated water and lemon juice, but today there are more fruit flavors such as Japanese limes, grapefruits, peach, grapes.

So “Chuhi” is supposed to use “Shochu” according to the theory, but today some chaos exists over there.

  • It is called “Chuhai” even “vodka” is used for canned Chuhai
  • It is called “Chuhai” even “distilled clear spirits” (KouruiShochu) is used at Izakayas
  • It is called “Sour”(サワー) at some Izakayas

chuhai, convenience store in Japan

At Izakayas, they have original “ChuHi-Mix” and make “original ChuHi”.

Supposedly, you can call “ChuHi” a drink mixed “Shochu” aka “distilled spirits”, carbonated water, and your preferred fruit flavor.

• More about Canned ChuHi…


“Shocyu” (焼酎) is one of the representatives and essential distilled liquor to talk about Japanese drinking culture.

If you want to experience Japanese culture, try some at home!

In my area, “Yokaichi” is available at the local liquor shop.

“Yokaichi” is popular “Mugi shochu”, very clear and smooth, perfect for “Shochu” beginners.

“Imo Jochu”, “Awamori”, “Kokutoujochu” may need some time to get used to its unique aroma and flavor,

try once when you visit Izakaya, in Japan!!!

if you want to drink the authentic shochu make sure it’s “honkaku shochu”.

5 basics divas want to know about shochu

Another staple “Sugar-free” alcohol drink in Japan⇩⇩⇩

5 insider secrets if Japanese highball

Do you want to know “Izakaya” culture in Japan???

all about izakaya in japan

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