Amazing Koji Mold World: 38
Story Of Shochu – Part 2

Written and illustrated by Misa Ono

Apart from beer, “sour” is another popular menu in Izakaya (Japanese style bar restaurant). The recipe depends on the restaurants, but usually with shochu, soda water and lemon or grapefruits juice. The taste is very light and refreshing as an alcohol beverage, and I always drink it like juice.

There are 2 types of shochu; Otsu and Ko (*). The type Otsu is made of potato, rice or barley and certified as real shochu. On the other hand, the type Ko is made of syrup and possibly mass-produced for a cheap price. The taste is simple and easy to drink mixing citrus fruits, juice or tea.

The alcohol content of the most Ko type of shochu is 25%, but some are as high as 35%. It is usually used to make fruit liquor, commonly with plum, apple, pear or ginger. This is because water coming out from these ingredients reduces alcohol level causing mold and deterioration of the taste.  I love making fruit liquor at home and have already made ones with pear and ginger. I’m now waiting for them to be delicious♪

Various ingredients other than potato, rice and barley are used for Otsu shochu, however, most koji used for this type of shochu is limited to rice or barley. And it generates a lot of citric acids, which differs from koji used for sake. Why do they use different koji?

no.38_Story-of-Shochu-2To make shochu, steam the basic ingredient (rice or barley) to grow koji mold. Add water and the yeast then ferment them to make moromi (sake mash) [1st preparation].  Add the main ingredient (potato, rice or barley) and water then ferment them again to make the second staged moromi [2nd preparation]. After the distillation and adjustment of the taste by adding water, shochu is ready-to-drink. The reason why they use the koji that produces the citric acids is to prevent unwanted bacteria from growing, as the warm weather in southwestern Japan easily causes the bacteria growth in the fermentation process. Meanwhile, the yeast dissolves the glucose in the main ingredient making alcohol which also restrains bacteria. The citric acid itself is sour but no worries, it is not distilled in the process. So the acid keeps the drink away from bacteria yet doesn’t ruin the taste either. A great substance!

Just as there is nouveau wine, there is nouveau shochu too. Newly-made fresh shochu is sweet in the flavor but strong in alcohol that has not aged for long enough. When I first tasted it, it reminded me of my bitter-sweet youthful days.


(*As The Liquor Tax Act was revised in 2006, shochu now has 2 types; Otsu type of shochu (singly distilled shochu), and Ko type of shochu (multiply distilled shochu).