A beginner’s guide to Japan’s oldest spirit

“The first written record of shochu was actually graffiti on a temple,” Rule of Thirds partner George Padilla told me. “In the 1500s, some builders working on a temple had scrawled, in the wood, a snide comment about the high priest being stingy with his shochu. Fittingly, this is the first record of what is, still today, considered a blue-collar beverage in Japan.”

Japan’s oldest, most traditional alcoholic beverage, shochu, is a clear, distilled spirit made from fermented, well, almost anything. “I’ve actually calculated this once,” Kyushu-based orthopedic researcher by day; The Complete Guide to Japanese Drinks author, Cool Japan Honkaku Shochu Ambassador, Sake School of America instructor, Japanese Sake & Shochu Makers Association consultant, and cofounder of Kanpai blog by night Stephen Lyman shared with me.


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