Father's Day is June 16

From the refreshing mugi (barley) varieties to musty imo (sweet potato) that demand your full attention, shochus are always the choice of drink for me. I fell in love with shochu while I lived in Tokyo. From oolong-hai's to oyuwari imo (sweet potato shochu with hot water), there are many ways to enjoy shochu.

Kayoko and I hosted our most elaborate tasting yet last Tuesday at Bi-Rite's food education space 18 Reasons in the Mission District of San Francisco. We had heard so many great things about 18 Reasons and were really excited when they asked Umami Mart to lead a shochu tasting seminar.

There was a lot of information to cover during the seminar: from the history of shochu, how shochu differs from sake, to tasting the difference between various types of shochu. But the most interesting aspect I took away from the event was the thoughtful feedback and very clear opinions every attendee had about each of the shochus, and what they were tasting.

The line up:

Iichiko (mugi), Gankotsuoh (rice), Shiranami (imo), Towari (soba).

John Lee of 18 Reasons and the rest of the staff were impressive with their preparation.


We had a powerpoint presentation and everything!


Tasting the difference between korui (multiple distilled) and honkaku (single distilled) shochus.


We had such a great group who asked a lot of questions.


Each shochu was served with a plate of treats. Pickles and salmon were paired with the mugi shochu.


At the very end, we put out a tub of ice, and pitchers of hot and cold water and had everyone experiment with shochu on the rocks, oyuwari and mizuwari (shochu with water) combinations. It was interesting to hear people's reactions like, "I don't usually like distilled drinks, but I really enjoy the imo shochu," or "Mugi shochu reminds me of gin." Discovering new things together in a big group is what I find most entertaining and pleasurable at Umami Mart events.


Thank you to Takara Sake USA Inc., and NA Sales for providing the sake and shochus for the night. We hope to do a cooking class at 18 Reasons in the fall. We will keep you posted!

Photos by Natalie So