Shochu Travel Guide

A multifaceted Japanese spirit distilled from rice, sweet potatoes, barley, and more, shochu is the alcoholic alternative to sake in Japan with a range of distinct regional varieties.

Originating over 500 years ago, although sake (a.k.a. nihonshu) is the better known alcoholic beverage, shochu is Japan’s other delicious national drink. In fact, shochu is consumed more widely than sake in Japan and is distinguished as a distilled spirit (rather than a fermented and brewed beverage). Diverse in flavor, shochu is made from a range of ingredients such as kome (rice), mugi (barley), imo (sweet potatoes), buckwheat, brown sugar, and more. A clear drink, shochu is low in calories with an alcohol content of roughly 25 percent. Retaining the flavors of its base ingredient, premium top-shelf shochu is known as “authentic” honkaku. These are single-distilled and best enjoyed straight up, on the rocks, or with a dash of water (hot or cold). Diverse in its uses, multiply-distilled shochu is usually used in cocktails or as a mixer for drinks like chu-hai (shochu highball) which is made of shochu and soda doused with a fruity flavoring.

Shochu has a number of regional varieties in Japan, with some protected and only produced in their respective areas, like Kumamoto’s rice-based shochu. Kagoshima and Greater Kyushu are famous for their sweet potato shochu, while Oita uses barley. Okinawa’s local shochu is another drink in itself, awamori, made from Thai rice. However, Ryukyu Awamori, named after Okinawa’s indigenous people, can only be made exclusively in Okinawa. Other variations of craft shochu have emerged in recent years, while kasutori is another variety that’s distilled from sake lees. Popularly enjoyed with colleagues at izakayas after a long haul at the office, or served in fancy cocktails at secret hidden bars, shochu is Japan’s diverse and preferred drink of choice. Discover the potential of shochu with one of our experiences and join a tasting session or on an awesome night out bar-hopping.

Stay in the Loop!
Be the first to know about the latest foodie trends.
Sign up for insider tips & sneak peeks into the diverse world of dining in Japan