Discovering Shochu: Episode 17 – Closing the Unfamiliarity Gap

Let’s say, that all the artisan greatness of a Honkaku Shochu and their success stories in Japan aren’t generating the same excitement here in the US.  Maybe it’s time to take a novel approach for a solution by stepping away from Japanese eateries and taking a look at successful American drinking establishments.  They may hold a clue on promoting Shochu to a broader customer base, after all, the primary target is the very mainstream Americans who know little about Shochu.


Familiar Cocktails mixed with Less Familiar Shochu


Most Japanese restaurants carrying Shochu have tried educating the consumer:  Honkaku pot still Shochu, made of sweet potatoes/barley/rice/Thai rice, brewed and distilled in a special way, etc.  But rather than inundating guests with new information, try turning the table around to introduce what’s already familiar to most liquor drinking audiences:  old fashioned, mojito, screwdriver, Cuba Libre.  Highlighting these already recognizable cocktails by name first, followed by a notation of a Shochu liquor ingredient, closes the unfamiliarity gap that customers may pose if “Shochu” were the primary listing.


Shochu: Deeper Flavor than Western Distilled Spirits      

Dry Tour bar (currently Code Venice) in Venice Beach, California, is one such bar that’s had success with Shochu cocktails.  Opened in spring of 2012, this highly popular bar features quality foods and drinks served in a space of relaxed ambiance, and reasonably priced offerings. Based on the notion of “warmth & accessibility”, Arron Turnbull, the owner, whips out classic cocktails one after another, using most exclusively a Shochu liquor base that’s 48 proof or less.  Of particular interest is that, his cocktail aficionado customers have taken note:  Shochu has a deeper, more complex flavor than Western distilled spirits.


Mixing Tips 

Replace hard liquor with even amount of 48 Proof Shochu, PLUS ONE MORE OUNCE.Adjust the amount of liquor, depending on taste. To simplify drink mixing operation, use the same glass size for all cocktails.


Shochu Cocktails as Familiar Concoctions


Try these classic cocktails that are simple and quick, and can easily incorporate Shochu as its liquor base.  Especially in California where Shochu less that 48 proof legally falls under the beer and wine license – there’s a BIG business opportunity with these drinks.


RICE SHOCHU in place of Vodka

SCREWDRIVER: 3oz Rice Shochu, 4oz orange juice

MOSCOW MULE: 3oz Rice Shochu, 1oz lime juice, 4 oz ginger beer


BARLEY SHOCHU in place of Whiskey

COLLINS: 3oz Barley Shochu, 1oz fresh lemon juice, ½ oz simple syrup, chilled club soda

PRESBYTERIAN: 3oz Barley Shochu, 2oz ginger ale


SWEET POTATO SHOCHU in place of Tequilla

MATADOR:  2 ½ oz Sweet Potato Shochu, 3oz pineapple juice, juice of half a lime

PALOMA:  3oz Sweet Potato Shochu, ½ oz lime juice, chilled grapefruit sodaCane


Sugar Shochu in place of Rum

PINA COLADA: 2oz Cane Sugar Shochu, 1oz cream of coconut, 3oz pineapple juice


DAIQUIRI: 3oz Cane Sugar Shochu, 1.5oz lime juice, ¾ oz simple syrup