Written and illustrated by Misa Ono
My father drinks alcohol every nights. His favorite is sweet potato shochu with hot water. Shochu is a Japanese spirit mainly made of barely, rice or sweet potatoes. Sweet potato shochu used to be very strong in flavor, and adding hot water even enhanced the flavor. When I was a kid, I used to complain to him about that smell. But now, I am also the one who drinks shochu. Although, sweet potato shochu today doesn’t smell as strong as before.
While Japanese sake is a fermented alcoholic beverage like beer and wine, shochu is a distilled alcohol beverage like whisky, gin, vodka and rum. Shochu was invented in place of sake in southwestern Japan including south Kyushu as these areas were too warm to make sake. Shochu has a history of 500 years, and sweet potatoes were first used for the drink 250 to 300 years ago since they were first brought into japan in 1705.
Apart from sweet potatoes, rice and barley, chestnuts, soba, sakekasu and brown sugar are also used to make shochu. Some brown sugar shochu taste just like rum. As mentioned, sweet potato shochu has a distinctive strong taste and smell so some people like it but others don’t. On the other hand, rice shochu is light in taste and barely shochu is aromatic. Both are easy to drink and quite many people like them.
How to drink shochu depends on their preference. The alcohol content of most shochu is 25%. Few people drink it straight but many people drink it on the rocks, with water or hot water. I personally prefer it with hot water except in summer time because I can adjust the alcohol concentration, and also the heat enriches the flavor and warms me up. Some people are particular about shochu with hot water, like whether adding hot water first or shochu first to a cup, and whether pouring freshly-boiled water or a-bit-cooled-down boiled water. Some people are even more particular. They mix shochu and water in advance at a ratio of 5:5 to 3:7 so that the two blend in well and become smoother in the taste. You can refrigerate it or heat it up in hot water. It would be more professional if you use a special shochu pot called “Kuro joka” to heat up shochu on an open fire. The shochu particularly made warms your body and eases your mind♡ Why don’t you try one?