Sometimes you may hear it called "Japanese vodka" which is a really simplistic way of getting us to understand what it is, however there are a lot of key differences that make shochu unique. In comparison to vodka and other hard liquror's 45% alcohol, shochu is normally around 25% alcohol. Also, vodka and other hard liquors are normally distilled several times while shochu is often distilled only once. This allows the ingredients the shochu was made with to really shine through and allows for variation of taste. When it is single distilled, the shochu is called honkaku, when it is distilled more, it is called korui.
|(L) barley; (R) sweet potato|
Traditionally, shochu is enjoyed neats, on the rocks, or diluted with hot water to allow the aroma to be enjoyed.
|This Takara shochu is korui-style and very smooth|
In my recipes, I usually use korui-style shochu, like shown in my umeshu recipe. I find korui shochu to be way smooth, less harsh tasting than vodka and the lower alcohol content keeps me from getting sick since I am sensitive to alcohol.
Recipes that use shochu:
Yuzu Kosho Bloody Mary