Known for its versatility and wide range of ingredients, shochu is one of Japan’s most interesting drinks. Some of the base ingredients include sweet potato, barley, buckwheat and brown sugar. But there are many more to choose from, which adds to the appeal of shochu.
Certain types of shochu are mixed with other drinks to create new flavours. This is the case for chuhai, which means ‘shochu highball’ in English. Having recently tasted a grape flavoured shochu highball, the experience was different to other types of sake that I’ve tried.
Drinking korui shochu
According to shochu expert Christopher Pellegrini, chuhai is “a drink containing shochu, soda, and a sweet and sour mixer of some sort….the most common mixtures used in restaurants are currently tea, grapefruit juice or lemon juice.”
Chuhai is a type of korui shochu, which is made mostly from sugar cane, corn, barley and rice. It’s different from honkaku shochu, which is single-distilled and has much richer flavour profiles.
The shochu highball that I had was made with sukkiri kajitsu no osake grape. It came in a large stein glass, which made me think it was being presented as a cocktail. A decent amount of sweetness came in on the tongue. The grape flavour was pleasant, while the carbonated quality made it easy to drink.
Sweet and savoury goodness
I paired the highball with a plate of koji fried chicken whipped up Manchester’s Tokyo Ramen. The fruitiness of the chuhai matched well with the savoury texture of the meat. It left behind a warm, wholesome sensation on the palate.
Overall, I found the grape shochu highball to be an enjoyable drink to have. The flavour became more robust when mixed with the food. But as a stand-alone beverage, it is definitely worth trying for people who would like to learn more about shochu.
For seasoned shochu drinkers, I’d be interested to know what your thoughts are on the differences between korui and honkaku shochu. Which do you prefer?