People outside of Japan usually do not know much about Shochu, if they have heard of the alcoholic beverage at all. In Japan, though, Shochu is even more popular than Sake. And one of the best ways to enjoy it is in refreshing Shochu cocktails.
Shochu cocktails are mainly inspired by Japanese Highball culture. Therefore most recipes don't require many ingredients and let the Shochu shine.
But before we dive into cocktail recipes, I want to talk a bit about the main ingredient first.
What is Shochu?
Shochu is a Japanese distilled liquor made from grains and vegetables. It usually is colorless, and the most common ingredients to make it are barley, rice, sweet potato, and buckwheat.
In Japan, Shochu is the most popular alcoholic beverage. Even more popular than Sake and Japanese Whiskies.
Depending on the distillation method, Shochu is either classified as Honkaku Shochu or Korui Shochu. The Honkaku version is the traditional way to produce this popular Japanese spirit.
The alcohol content of Shochu is typically between 25% and 37% ABV. For comparison, Sake ranges between 13% and 16%.
There are many ways to serve Shochu. Like Sake, you can drink it both, chilled or warmed. And also, Shochu is excellent when enjoyed on the rocks, mixed with soda water, or in mixed drinks.
To get some inspiration on which Shochu to use, you can check out our post about the best Shochu to try right now!
Shochu in cocktails
When using an ingredient in cocktail recipes, it helps immensely to know how the spirit tastes on its own. If you have had Shochu before, you might have an idea of how you can combine it with other ingredients.
For everybody else: Generally, Shochu has a delicate nutty and earthy flavor. Depending on the individual base ingredient, the flavors do vary slightly, though.
In cocktails, Shochu works exceptionally well with fresh fruit juices and sparkling elements. The sweet and sour taste of fresh citrus juices complements and balances the earthy notes of the Japanese spirit.
Lemon juice, yuzu juice, and lime juice are the most popular combinations. However, you can also find drinks made with orange and grapefruit juice.
The best Shochu cocktails
Now, let's make some cocktails. Here's a list of some of the most famous traditional Japanese Shochu cocktails, like the Chuhai cocktail. And I have some modern riffs for you, too.
A Chuhai cocktail is a mix of Shochu, chilled soda water, and fresh fruit juice.
It is probably the most famous and popular drink made with Shochu as a base. -At least in Japan.
You can make a Chuhai with all kinds of fruit juices, but I recommend trying it with either yuzu juice or lemon juice.
Shochu Melon Citrus
Looking at the ingredients, you might notice that this drink is closely related to the Midori Sour. Spiked with Shochu, the Shochu Melon Citrus has a slightly higher ABV, though.
Shochu Oolong Mixer
Making a Shochu Oolong Mixer is quick and easy. You need plenty of ice, Shochu, iced Oolong tea, and some fresh lemon slices to garnish the drink.
Simply fill a Highball glass with ice, pour a shot of Shochu into it, and stir it. Then top up with iced Oolong tea and garnish your cocktail with lemon wheels.
Shochu Apple Sour
This Shochu Apple Sour is quite similar to the Chuhai cocktail. The recipe includes Shochu, chilled soda, and apple juice.
And for a more complex flavor profile, you add half an ounce of fresh lemon juice and a dash of honey.
The result is a tasty, sweet, and sour cocktail with delicate apple notes.
The Yuzu Sour recipe is based on the sour cocktail template. In this case, Shochu is the spirit base, tangy yuzu serves as the sour component, and honey preserve is the sweetener.
Yuzu is a Japanese citrus fruit similar to Grapefruit or lemon. It's super popular in Japanese cuisine and often used in lemonades.
Old Fashioned Samurai
You might have guessed it: the Old Fashioned Samurai is a twist on the classic Old Fashioned.
To make one, pour Shochu, a few dashes of bitters, and a bit of simple syrup into a mixing glass filled with ice.
Then stir the mix until the drink is chilled and strain it into a rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with orange peel and a Maraschino cherry before serving.
The Mt. Fuji cocktail got its name from Japan's famous volcano. It is a classic Martini recipe made with Shochu.
To make an Mt. Fuji cocktail add Shochu, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, and basil leaves into a cocktail shaker filled with ice.
Shake the drink until well-chilled and strain into an ice-filled Martini glass. Add a splash of pomegranate juice (not Grenadine!) and garnish with a fresh basil leaf.