How to Drink Shochu? Best Ways, Tips, and Recipes for Every Occasion

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Shochu is a traditional Japanese distilled spirit that has been enjoyed for centuries. With its unique flavor profiles and versatility, it offers a fascinating world to explore for both new and experienced drinkers. This guide will delve into the various ways to drink shochu, including the best practices, cocktail recipes, and tips to fully appreciate this remarkable spirit.

What is Shochu?

Shochu is a Japanese distilled spirit typically made from barley, sweet potatoes, rice, or other ingredients like buckwheat and brown sugar. Unlike sake, which is brewed, shochu is distilled, which gives it a higher alcohol content and a different flavor profile. The production process and the ingredient used play a significant role in the flavor and aroma of the final product.

Types of Shochu

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Shochu can be categorized based on its base ingredient and the method of production. The main types include:

Rice Shochu (Kome Shochu)

Made from polished rice, this type of shochu often has a clean, mild flavor with a subtle sweetness and is sometimes compared to sake.

Barley Shochu (Mugi Shochu)

Barley shochu tends to have a nutty, slightly sweet flavor. It is one of the most popular types due to its balanced and versatile taste.

Sweet Potato Shochu (Imo Shochu)

This type is known for its bold, earthy, and sometimes pungent flavor. Sweet potato shochu can vary widely in taste depending on the variety of sweet potatoes used.

Buckwheat Shochu (Soba Shochu)

Made from buckwheat, this shochu has a mild, slightly nutty flavor and is often lighter than other types.

Brown Sugar Shochu (Kokuto Shochu)

Originating from the Amami Islands, this type is made from brown sugar and has a rich, sweet flavor with caramel notes.

Blended Shochu

Blended shochu combines different types of base ingredients to create unique flavor profiles.

How to Drink Shochu?

An Introduction To Japanese Shochu

Shochu’s versatility allows it to be enjoyed in several ways, each bringing out different aspects of its flavor.


Drinking shochu neat is the purest way to experience its flavor. This method allows you to appreciate the complexity and nuances of the spirit.

How to Drink Shochu Neat:

  • Pour a small amount into a shochu glass or a similar small glass.
  • Sip slowly to savor the aroma and taste.
  • Neat shochu is best enjoyed at room temperature or slightly chilled.

On the Rocks

Serving shochu on the rocks is a popular method that slightly dilutes the spirit, opening up its flavors and making it more refreshing.

How to Drink Shochu On the Rocks:

  • Fill a glass with ice cubes.
  • Pour shochu over the ice.
  • Stir gently and let it sit for a minute before sipping.

With Water (Mizuwari)

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Mizuwari, or mixing shochu with cold water, is a common way to enjoy shochu, especially during warmer months. This method mellows the alcohol’s strength and enhances the flavor.

How to Make Mizuwari:

  • Fill a glass with ice.
  • Pour shochu into the glass.
  • Add an equal amount of cold water.
  • Stir gently.

With Hot Water (Oyuwari)

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Oyuwari, or mixing shochu with hot water, is ideal for colder weather. It releases the aromatic compounds of shochu, providing a comforting and warming drink.

How to Make Oyuwari:

  • Heat water to just below boiling.
  • Pour hot water into a glass.
  • Slowly add shochu to the hot water (this method prevents the shochu from becoming too diluted).
  • Stir gently.

In Cocktails

Shochu’s diverse flavor profiles make it an excellent base for various cocktails. Bartenders enjoy experimenting with shochu to create both traditional and innovative drinks.

How to Use Shochu in Cocktails:

  • Choose a shochu that complements the flavors of your cocktail.
  • Adjust recipes to account for shochu’s lower proof compared to other spirits.
  • Use shochu in classic cocktails by substituting it for the primary spirit.

Popular Shochu Cocktails

Shochu can be the star of many delicious cocktails. Here are some popular recipes to try:

Shochu Sour

Shochu Cocktail Recipes - Nankai Shochu and Gold


  • 2 oz shochu
  • 1 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 1 oz simple syrup
  • Ice
  • Lemon wheel for garnish


  1. Combine shochu, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a shaker.
  2. Fill the shaker with ice and shake well.
  3. Strain into a chilled glass.
  4. Garnish with a lemon wheel.

Shochu Mojito

Shiso Shochu Mojito – Umami Mart


  • 2 oz shochu
  • 1 oz fresh lime juice
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • Mint leaves
  • Soda water
  • Ice
  • Lime wedge and mint sprig for garnish


  1. Muddle mint leaves and sugar in a glass.
  2. Add lime juice and shochu.
  3. Fill the glass with ice and top with soda water.
  4. Stir gently and garnish with a lime wedge and mint sprig.

Shochu Bloody Mary

Shochu Bloody Mary Cocktail Recipe


  • 1.5 oz shochu (preferably a mix of lower and higher-proof varieties)
  • 3 oz tomato juice
  • 0.5 oz lemon juice
  • Dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • Dash of hot sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Ice
  • Celery stalk and lemon wedge for garnish


  1. Fill a shaker with ice.
  2. Add all ingredients and shake well.
  3. Strain into a glass filled with ice.
  4. Garnish with a celery stalk and lemon wedge.

Shochu Highball

Shochu Highball


  • 2 oz shochu
  • Soda water
  • Ice
  • Lemon twist for garnish


  1. Fill a highball glass with ice.
  2. Add shochu and top with soda water.
  3. Stir gently.
  4. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Shochu Tasting Tips

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To truly appreciate shochu, it’s essential to understand how to taste it properly. Here are some tips for a successful shochu tasting:

Use Proper Glassware

Use small glasses such as shochu glasses or wine glasses to concentrate the aromas.

Observe the Color

Shochu is usually clear, but some aged varieties may have a slight tint. Observe the color in a well-lit room.

Smell the Aroma

Swirl the glass gently and take a moment to inhale the aromas. Note any distinct scents such as fruit, nuts, or earthiness.

Taste and Savor

Take a small sip and let it sit in your mouth. Notice the initial flavors and how they evolve. Pay attention to the texture and finish.

Compare Different Types

To understand the range of flavors, compare different types of shochu side by side. Note the differences in aroma, taste, and finish.

Choosing the Right Shochu

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With so many varieties of shochu, choosing the right one can be overwhelming. Here are some guidelines to help you make an informed decision:

Consider the Base Ingredient

The base ingredient significantly affects the flavor. Decide whether you prefer the clean taste of rice shochu, the earthy notes of sweet potato shochu, or another type.

Check the Alcohol Content

Shochu typically ranges from 25% to 45% alcohol by volume (ABV). Choose a strength that suits your preference.

Look for Honkaku Shochu

Honkaku shochu is single-distilled and offers a more complex flavor. It’s considered the highest quality and is worth seeking out.

Read Reviews and Recommendations

Look for reviews and recommendations from shochu enthusiasts and experts. This can provide insight into the flavor profile and quality of different brands.

Experiment with Different Brands

Don’t hesitate to try different brands and types. This exploration will help you discover your preferences and broaden your appreciation of shochu.

Shochu Culture and Etiquette

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Understanding the cultural significance and etiquette associated with shochu can enhance your drinking experience.

Respect Traditional Practices

Shochu has a deep cultural heritage in Japan. Respecting traditional practices, such as drinking styles and serving methods, shows appreciation for the culture.

Proper Serving Etiquette

When serving shochu to others, hold the bottle with both hands and pour for your guests before yourself. This gesture shows respect and hospitality.

Enjoy Shochu with Food

Shochu pairs well with many Japanese dishes. Enjoying it with food can enhance the flavors of both the drink and the meal.

Social Aspect

Shochu is often enjoyed in social settings. Sharing shochu with friends or family is a way to strengthen bonds and create lasting memories.


Shochu is a versatile and richly flavored spirit that offers endless possibilities for enjoyment. Whether you prefer it neat, on the rocks, or in a cocktail, understanding the different types and how to drink shochu can enhance your appreciation of this traditional Japanese spirit. By exploring various methods and recipes, you can discover the full potential of shochu and enjoy it in a way that suits your taste. Cheers to your shochu journey!