Friday, June 8, 2007
Trader Joe's Shochu!
I'm a lush. I admit it. But I'm pretty particular about what I like to drink nowadays. Beer? Occasionally, but I don't dig it as much as I once did (and the headaches I get from it now... oof). Wine? Absolutely. In my family, if you didn't drink wine, you didn't sit at the table. Whiskey? Bourbon please; Scotch puts me to sleep.
These are all great, you know, but what I really love is Shochu and Sake-- and while certainly not interchangeable (there are certainly Sake times, like when you're eating an omakase course, and there are Shochu times which is whenever!) there are wonderful experiences waiting for the fan of either beverages.
Now, the main problem vexing the Shochu drinker who is no longer living in NYC (where there's been a recent discovery of the stuff and an explosion in fandom as a result) is that I can't find it that easily here in LA. And what I do fine is limited to a few paltry brands like Iichiko and Ginza no Suzume. Neither are bad, but PLEASE give me some more choices.
So imagine my shock when I walked into Trader Joe's a while back and saw their own brand of Shochu on display. "Wuh?! No way!!" I bought it and that night I cracked it open for my first taste.
Different people prefer to drink Shochu different ways: some like it straight up, some on the rocks with water and lemon, and some with a sliver of cucumber! I prefer mine on the rocks with a splash of water.
The Trader Joe's Shochu is a Rice Shochu and is unlike almost any other type of Shochu I've ever tasted (and that numbers into the hundreds, as my liver weeps...). It has a clean, almost Daiginjo taste to it that belongs more to Sake (nihon shu) than is typically found in a Shochu. My suspicion is that this was engineered for the export market, but rather than be a bad thing, it's wonderfully refreshing. I haven't tried it yet as a mizu-wari (mixed drink) but my guess is that it would go well with juices and oolong teas, essentially rendering it a very versatile mixer.
Specific information: The Trader Joe's Shochu is from Mie-ken, which is a bit unusual since most Shochu is produced in the Japanese southern islands, like Kyushu. Perhaps this also is what lends it the flowery bouquet? It costs $16.99 and like most things Trader Joe's is most likely NOT available at all markets.
Writing about this, got me thinking that I should blog a bit more about Shochu on this site. So in the coming months, I'm sure I will mention some of the good stuff I've had or am having. My hope is that you, gentle reader, will come to me with suggestions of Shochu that you've liked and maybe we can increase our general knowledge of this wonderful Japanese spirit.
More info on Shochu-- and specifically the Okinawan Awamori style at Sake-World.