Discovering Shochu: Episode 16 – Creating a Menu That Works

A menu that’s concise and straightforward is effective in enticing more Shochu drinkers.  To start, the first important step is to evaluate the restaurant surroundings, configuration and the main characteristics that define its key positioning.   Also, design an all-inclusive alcoholic beverage menu, together with Sake and beer. The final step is to meld these […]

Sommelier Talk: Episode 18 – 25 Years SINCE “Ginjo Gannen”

A while ago at a second-hand bookstore, I purchased a book published by Yomiuri Shinbum some 25 years ago.  Reading this book, “100 Popular Selections of Japanese Sake Brewery and Toji Masters” I encountered a phrase “Ginjo Gannen”.  What exactly is “Ginjo Gannen?” I wondered. “Gannen” literally means “the first, birth year”.  In this case, […]


Lately, subtle but noticeable changes are occurring amongst wine drinkers.  Until recently, the general preferences have been towards “fruit forward” wines or those with strong and fruity aromas, but today, they’re leaning towards more delicate wines with balanced qualities.  Seemingly, fruit forward wines these days are becoming passé, viewed as overly vulgar due to the […]

Discovering Shochu – Episode 15 – Emphasizing Product Attributes

Honkaku Shochu offers unique and delicious flavors found nowhere else in the world of distilled liquors, and is garnering a strong following in the international market.  Nowhere else is Koji used during the brewing process, added to that, the meticulous distilling and aging procedures at the high standards Japan in known for. As Japan’s National […]

Discovering Shochu – Episode 14 – Purported Health Benefits Are Quite the Allure

Throughout Japan, health benefits associated with drinking Honkaku Shochu have been highlighted in the headlines.  The sudden climb to prominence may seem recent, however, its reputation as a healthy drink is well founded from long back in Japanese history.  According to “Honcho-Shoku Kagami”, a food encyclopedia written 317 years ago in 1695, Honkaku Shochu had medicinal […]

Sommelier Talk – Episode 16 – Reviewing Sake Like a Pro Pt. II

In this episode, I’d like to focus on how to analyze and evaluate Sake characteristics by “Sight”, “Smell” and “Taste”.  By consciously practicing the following three areas of evaluation, anyone can develop sound Sake tasting skill.   1.) By Sight: Examine the transparency, color and viscosity of Sake.  It’s easy to see (a) the cloudiness […]

Discovering Shochu – Episode 13 – Shochu Certified as Japanese National Alcoholic Beverage

On April 15, 2012, the Japanese government officially announced Sake and Shochu as Japan’s National Alcoholic Beverages.   Shochu: Uniquely Japanese   The precise answer to why Shochu is Japan’s National Alcoholic Beverage is that, Shochu is made with ingredients grown and harvested in Japan, and that it uses Koji in the fermentation process, the unique […]

Sommelier Talk: Episode 15 – Reviewing Sake Like a Pro Pt. I

I’m sure that many Japanese restaurant owners, chefs, and mangers have participated in Sake tastings to consider them for sake menu listing.  I’d like to offer some key points when conducting such samplings, so as to help improve tasting skills like a pro, and in turn, to strengthen the Sake menu.   There are three […]

Discovering Shochu: Episode 11 – Honkaku Shochu

Among all distilled liquors of the world, only Honkaku Shochu uses Koji to break down starch into glucose to ferment the Moromi mash.  With hand-crafted artisan Jizake as the national brewed liquor of Japan, Honkaku Shochu is the nation’s distilled version.   Differentiating from other Shochu’s, Honkaku Shochu undergoes single distillation to retain the unique flavor […]