How to Drink Shochu
As with other liquors, there are various ways to enjoy this special beverage.
This is the best method to fully enjoy the rich taste of otsurui shochu, which should be consumed slightly chilled or at room temperature. If the alcoholic content is too high, consider sipping water between each taste.
On the Rocks (Poured over Ice Cubes)
This method is perfect in summer and goes well with all kinds of shochu, but especially with mugi-jochu and imo-jochu. The bigger the ice cubes, the better! Ice cubes should be from mineral or boiled water to avoid altering the taste.
Mixed with Cold Water ('Mizuwari')
This is the perfect way to enjoy shochu for those who don’t like or can’t handle strong drinks, as the beverage will keep its aroma but will become milder. Recommended for mugi-jochu or awamori, the water should be mixed 6 to 4 or 5 to 5 with shochu and left to rest overnight. Water can also be added right before drinking in a 2-parts-water to 8-parts-shochu mix.
Mixed with Warm Water ('Oyuwari')
This method allows you to enjoy the taste of shochu in even the tiny molecules of vapor, especially in winter. All otsurui shochu can be drunk in this way, and imo-jochu in particular. There are, however, some important tips to follow: The hot water must be poured in the glass before the shochu, and the ideal temperature is around 70 degrees Celsius (158°F). The water to shochu ratio is the same as above.
This is the traditional way to serve shochu. Kome-jochu and imo-jochu are especially perfect served this way, but please keep these tips in mind when warming all varieties of shochu. Kome-jochu should not be mixed with water, but the others can be mixed at the above ratio (4 parts water to 6 parts shochu) and then left to rest overnight. Then, the shochu must be warmed up in a kuro joka, a black pot specifically made for the purpose, by heating it on a charcoal stove or by placing it into boiling water. Warm shochu is ready when vapor starts to come from the pot, at around 45 degrees Celsius (113°F). Using a microwave will result in a very harsh-tasting shochu.
Finally, shochu can also be mixed with oolong tea and fruit juices such as orange, peach and grapefruit. In Tokyo, it is also sometimes served in izakaya (Japanese-style pubs) together with Hoppy (ホッピー), a beer-flavored alcohol drink (with only 0.8 percent alcohol) produced by the Hoppy Beverage Company.
Shochu is also the main alcoholic ingredient in chuhai ( 酎ハイ), a common cocktail prepared by mixing it with carbonated water and different fruity flavors (like lemon, grapefruit, apple, ume, yuzu, etc.), and available in cans in convenience stores and supermarkets.
So now you know what you're drinking!