Ceramic cups for drinking shochu
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Sake & Shochu
 

Sake

Sake is made from rice, using a complicated and precise brewing method of steaming, fermenting, pressing and filtering.  It was produced as early as the 8th century, and thought to be a sacred liquid that had the ability to cleanse evil spirits. Sake has a close relationship with Shinto shrines; the first brew from each region is dedicated to the local Shinto shrine every year.

Sake has a bright, fresh flavor and fragrant, slightly yeasty aroma that marries well with Japanese food. It can be enjoyed hot or cold, and luckily, its price often has little to do with its quality. It is also a vital ingredient in cooking. I usually keep two large bottles on hand: one regular bottle for cooking, and one dry bottle for casual drinking. However, true afficionados should read the sake primer to learn about the high quality sakes such as junmai-daiginjo.

Shochu

While shochu was once considered to be a “poor man’s drink,” it has become increasingly popular among young people. In fact, it is my drink of choice. I prefer it to sake and find that it goes well with almost any type of food. I also find that it doesn’t produce as much of a hangover!

Shochu is potent stuff: the alcohol content ranges from 20 to 40%. It’s distilled from sweet potatoes, rice, barley, brown sugar, and even sesame seeds. Because it’s strong, shochu is often mixed with hot or cold water, or enjoyed on the rocks (my favorite), preferably in a ceramic cup such as the ones pictured above.

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