Japanese sake consists of some of the most multifaceted drinks I’ve ever tasted, and it’s become something of a mission to improve my knowledge about as many different varieties as possible. Shochu is a big part of the sake world. Blended from a mixture of sweet potato, buckwheat, barley, kokuto brown sugar and other ingredients, shochu can be described as kind of diet whisky.
Having learned about shochu from the engaging Christopher Pellegrini, I tracked down a Japanese restaurant in my native city of Manchester that sold the beverage. Read on to discover my thoughts on trying shochu for the very first time.
A different drinking experience
On arriving at the exceptional ramen joint Shoryu, I went for Gekkeikan Bizan (beautiful mountain) clear shochu and rather than drinking it straight I decided to combine it with hot water. This was because I fancied a different kind of drinking experience and have heard there is no right or wrong way to enjoy shochu. It turns out I got my wish, as the waiter delivered the Bizan and hot water in two separate ceramic cups. This kind of method is called oyuwari.
The aroma of the Bizan was mild and clean, which put me in a good frame of mind. After tasting it, I detected notes of fruity sweetness that lingered on the back of the tongue. On adding the hot water, the Bizan became softer and smoother, though the sweetness cut through, demonstrating how much flavour is packed into the drink.
Unlocking the power of umami
I paired the Bizan with a bowl of red miso ramen and found the flavours matched well. For example, the savoury quality of the broth became accentuated by the lightness of the shochu. The undercurrent of warmth from both the dish and the beverage brought out umami flavours that I’m not going to forget any time soon.
Drinking shochu for the first time was rewarding because I gained insight into an alternative form of dining. Bizan shochu is a light and delicious drink with a combination of floral and fruity notes. I found it to be an excellent starter beverage for my journey into the realm of shochu and would definitely have it again in future.