August 6th, 2003


Unlocking the intoxicating mysteries of Japan... one drink at a time.

A few months ago, I heard about shochu, a Japanese grain alcohol known for its stealth properties and supposedly appreciated for not having a strong "morning after" factor.

Well, I did a bit more research, finally tracked some down at Dobashi Market in San Jose, and have started experimenting...

iichiko is Japan's most popular brand of shochu. A 50-proof, 750 ml bottle of barley grain spirits will run you about $11.50, which isn't that bad really. Although it is Japan's most popular shochu, it is probably not the afficionado's choice -- apparently the best shochu in Japan is supposed to come from Kyushu.

The drink I made in the picture is a chu-hai, which is basically most any iced cocktail made with shochu and a mixer, traditionally served in a highball glass. Interestingly, they use both fresh fruit juices to make chu-hais, as well as canned sodas or concentrated fruit syrups combined with soda water. Some of the most popular chu-hai mixers in Japan are ume (sour plum), sour mix, grapefruit, lemon, rose's lime juice, oolong, calpis yoghurt drink, or melons.

My thoughts?! It would be interesting to learn how to make traditional chu-hais, and see what interesting possibilities exist to blend the cultural strengths, so to speak... shochu mixed in novel new ways, or chu-hais mixed with fresh, non-western juices and syrups, in ways that appeal to a western desire for new, exotic flavors, intoxicants, and locales.

I've had half of a lychee chu-hai that I mixed up with syrup and soda water. It's good, but I think I want to get more midori, as a touch of it would be quite delightful, I suspect. I don't taste the alcohol, really... but there's this warm feeling creeping through all the right places.

Hm. Interesting. More testing is definitely in order...
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