The more acquainted I get with shochu, the more I realize how much more there is to learn about it. It’s such an easy beverage to like, but not such an easy one to know.
In 2015, I’ve traveled to Japan twice—mostly to the epicenter of shochu production, the southern island of Kyushu—with the express purpose of exploring the elusive spirit that gets a chapter-long shout-out in The Year of Drinking Adventurously (my new book, due out in a little over three weeks—pre-order today).
Back in March I toured several shochu distilleries, dined with their proprietors and made a circle of new friends whose common bond is a passion for the drink. In October, I returned to Kyushu (thanks to the Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association and Kampai.US mastermind Stephen Lyman) for a bigger, bolder sequel to that spring experience. Read the rest of this entry
It’s the first “very special episode” of The Drinkable Week. (Grab the tissues and don’t do drugs, kids.) This week, I’m in Tokyo and in the Kagoshima and Kumamoto Prefectures experiencing shochu, the treasured spirit of the southern island of Kyushu. The itinerary, very generously organized by the Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association (JSS), included tours of six distilleries and more bars than I can count (and so much amazing food!) Extra special thanks to JSS’s Ken Kajihara and Kampai.US’s Stephen Lyman for pulling this grand adventure together.
The Japanese drinking scene is serious business. There are plenty of environments in which to imbibe but, perhaps, the best place type of place end up after a crawl into the wee hours is one of the many 5-seat holes in the wall that fits only you, four friends, a bartender and whatever beer, wine, spirits and sake that’s in stock. It’s cozy, intimate and charming and enables revelers to really connect with their servers. This particular establishment is in Tokyo’s Nombei Yokocho (“Drunkard’s Alley”), in the Shubiya district.
The Drinkable Globe will present one photo from a different part of the world each day, designed to inspire you in your worldwide beverage pursuits. And if you can’t get there on a plane, you can get there in spirit with a glass. Today’s image takes us to Hitoyosi-City in the Kumamoto Prefecture, on the southern island of Kyushu. You know you’re on Kyushu when you walk into a supermarket that looks like this—entire aisles dedicated to shochu. Kyushu boasts the greatest concentration of shochu producers among all of the home islands and is, therefore, the center of the shochu universe. Kumamoto is best known for its rice shochu, while you’re most likely to find sweet potato shochu in Kagoshima and soba (buckwheat)-based shochu in Miyazaki. In others, you’ll likely discover barley, sugar cane and even sesame shochu.
After a bit of a hiatus, the video featurettes (vide-ettes?) return with the first of several shot in Japan. Ever drink saké with fish parts in it? Unless you accidentally dropped a piece of sashimi in your cup (happens to the best of us), the answer is “probably not.” A tiny, hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Osaka serves up a hot saké with a very curious (and surprisingly not deadly) ingredient. Give it a watch; it only takes a minute.