The literal translation of shochu (焼酎) is “fiery spirit.” Often confused with sake, the main difference between these classic Japanese beverages is that sake is brewed and shochu is distilled. Also, while sake can only be made from rice, shochu can be made from many different ingredients. Traditionally, shochu is either offered neat, on the rocks, or ‘Oyuwari/Mizuwari’ (side of hot / cold water).


Shochu originates from Kyushu (southwestern island of Japan) where it was very difficult to make good sake because of the warm climate. In the 1500’s, distillation was introduced to Kyushu and local ingredients, such as sweet potato, barley, rice, and brown sugar, were used in pot stills to create shochu. Today, shochu is made from a myriad of ingredients, including the original 4, corn as well as chestnut, sesame, and potato. When a shochu is labeled as ‘honkaku’, it means that it is made from 100% Japanese ingredients. Shochu will always have a grain alcohol base (most often rice or barley) and is graded by the origin of its ingredients.

3 thoughts on “Japan’s Distilled Spirit: Shochu

  1. […] to an apricot than a plum. Umeshu is commonly made by combining slightly unripe ume with sugar and shochu and left to infuse for a period of […]

  2. […] Shochu – Shochu is a Japanese spirit brewed and distilled from starches such as rice, sesame, sweet potato, and more. […]

  3. […] between our team and Sasanokawa Shuzo, a family-owned distillery that’s been producing sake, shochu, and Whisky in Fukushima, Japan since 1765. The distillery uses natural spring water from Koriyama […]

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