Father's Day is June 16

Every Tuesday, I host Shochu’sday at our bar and guess what’s the most popular drink, week after week? After each shift, the recycling bin is full of tiny club soda cans, proof that I had just made a gajillion sodawari (spirits mixed with soda). Call it what you want: sodawari, a highball, shochu soda, or chuhai (short for shochu highballs, get it?), if it’s a pour of shochu topped off with intensely fizzy water, I’ll make it for ya.

A relatively new way to enjoy shochu in Japan, sodawari today is as important as oyuwari. Our friend and shochu importer Stephen Lyman says about the style, “It’s become quite a popular way to drink shochu. In fact it’s changed how shochu is made as many brands probably wouldn’t exist without the service.”

Crisp and crushable, a sodawari is a refreshing drink without any added sugar. Something about the soda accentuates the flavors of the shochu, it’s so satisfying! You’ll find this is the case for both shochus this month – whether it's barley or sweet potato, the ingredients are amplified when you add soda. Try drinking it side by side: with soda and without. You’ll see what I’m talking about and your mind will be blown!

See ya at the next Shochu’sday!

Kayoko

 

Tokujo Taimei Barley Shochu
Fujii Distillery (Bungo-Ono, Oita)
Distilled from 100% two-row barley grown locally or in Saga
ABV 25% / Koji: Black / Distillation: Atmospheric
Aged in enamel tanks from 6 months to a year

One whiff of this shochu will transport you in front of the campfire, with its rich, fragrant aromas of cereal and toasted grain. Run by third generation President Junichiro Fujii, he and two other staff members make shochus by hand, all while chanting “美味しくなーれ!美味しくなーれ!” (become delicious!). Take this bottle with you to your next bbq party, along with a few liters of club soda, and everyone will be clamoring for another round. For me, I can’t wait to sip this on my annual Yuba River camping trip.

Tasting Notes: Wheaties, caramel, smores, toast
Food Pairing: Yaki onigiri, Trader Joe’s Mandarin Chicken, gambas al ajillo, brownies
How to Drink: 3oz shochu, 3oz mugicha or iced coffee, top with soda in a cup full of ice or unlock savory notes when served oyuwari (with warm water). 

Purple + Pear Sweet Potato Shochu
Kyoya Shuzo (Nichinan City, Miyazaki)
Distilled from 83% Murasaki Masari sweet potato + 17% rice koji
ABV 40% / Koji: Black / Distillation: Vacuum

The likeness of this drink to pear eau de vie is staggering. Kyoya President Shinichiro Watanabe told me that, “To create a pear-like aroma, black koji is used and distilled at a low temperature (40 ̊C).” Wow! Here’s a great example of new flavors unlocked when soda is added: get notes of marshmallows and muscat grapes. We love Kyoya’s distinctive spirits (Hebess Cool, Yuzu Gin) and this new arrival hits it out of the park at a higher ABV – perfect for highballs and cocktails. Mr. Watanabe says, “In the region, there is a food culture called
banbin where people drink shochu with their meals.” Can we move there?

Tasting Notes: Pear, Bubblicious gum, powdered sugar
Food Pairing: Andante Picolo cheese, rib eye steak, gyoza
How to Drink: Kyoya President Tip: “I use a shot glass and warm it up in the microwave for about 30 seconds.”