Note: I was sent samples of various shochu for a virtual tasting and in order to make this Shochu Coffee Seltzer Cocktail. Opinions are mine alone.
One of my favorite things about having this food blog is that I am sometimes given the chance to learn more about ingredients and products that I have never heard of before. Shochu is certainly one of those items, and I am glad I now know about it!
A few months back, I had the opportunity to attend a virtual shochu tasting hosted by Christopher Pellegrini, author of the Shochu Handbook (paid link) and one of the co-founders of Honkaku Spirits. Shochu is a Japanese distilled spirit made from grains and vegetables, typically sweet potato, barley, or rice. Despite being widely available in Japan, shochu isn’t very well known in the US. Apparently less than half of 1% of shochu made in Japan is exported!
Depending on the ingredients in a specific shochu, the flavors can vary wildly. Koji, a mold used to break down the starches into fermentable sugars, can also impact the taste. There are three kinds of koji that are used in making shochu – black, yellow, and white, with white being the most commonly used in shochu. Yellow koji results in a fruity and floral flavor, and is commonly used to make sake, while black koji imparts an earthy, mineral taste to the shochu.
Shochu is typically enjoyed diluted either with hot water or cold water but can be used to make various cocktails as well. For our tasting, we tried eight different shochu, with quite a range of flavors. Nishihira Distillery’s Kana tasted faintly like a bourbon due to being aged up to one year in oak casks. Another from Fursawa Distillery, Motoko, had almost a mushroom-y note to it, very earthy and funky. The one that stood out to me the most, however, was from Tensei Distillery. Mugi Hokka is a dark roasted barley shochu that has dark chocolate and coffee notes to it.
To enhance those notes, Christopher suggested this recipe as a way to enjoy this particular shochu.
Ingredients (1 serving, multiply as needed):
- 1 oz shochu, such as Tensei Distillery’s Mugi Hokka
- 1 oz room temperature or cold coffee
- 2 oz seltzer
- 1 orange peel, for garnish
Fill a rocks glass or glencairn glass (paid link) with ice.
Pour in the shochu and coffee.
Carefully pour in the seltzer and garnish with the orange peel.
This cocktail is unlike anything I’ve had before. The flavor of the shochu is highlighted by the coffee but is kept very light with the addition of the seltzer.
This would make a great after dinner drink!
I really enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about shochu and have been enjoying the samples ever since! Check out Honkaku Spirits to see where you can purchase some shochu brands for yourself!