How to serve
Produced on all the islands, the traditional Japanese liqueurs and spirits such as shochu, awamori and umeshu are products with a strong, distinctive regional identity. The way to serve a traditional Japanese liqueur very much depends on its ingredients and how it was produced.
Honkaku and awamori: served with food, as an after-dinner drink, and even as an aperitif.
Often drunk during mealtimes, these two Japanese spirits go wonderfully well with the rich meat dishes from the regions where they originated. But those with a higher degree of alcohol (40 or even 60% ABV) are kept for drinking after the meal. Both are traditionally either served with water (hot or cold: generally three parts water to two parts shochu/awamori), or ‘on the rocks’. Since the ‘shochu-boom’ of recent years, it has become common practice to drink shochu and awamori straight in tasting glasses, like whisky or cognac.
Umeshu and other liqueurs – straight or Japanese-style
The way to serve a traditional Japanese liqueur very much depends on its ingredients and how it was produced. All of them can be drunk Western-style: straight, in tasting glasses. However, the Japanese have other more traditional ways of serving this drink:
- the sweet liqueurs, low in alcohol and often nihonshu sake-based, are generally drunk chilled with no ice
- the liqueurs with slightly more alcohol, made from neutral spirits, are generally drunk chilled with or without ice
- the stronger liqueurs, made from shochu or awamori and often containing molasses or muscovado sugar, are drunk in two different ways: either chilled with ice, or with a splash of hot water to bring out the aromas.
With the exception of a handful of specialist shops, it is still quite hard to find these on sale. Nevertheless, shochu, awamori and other Japanese liqueurs can be found in good quality Japanese restaurants in some cities. In order to find out more about these products directly from Japanese producers, and to taste products that are almost impossible to find in Europe, the international shows like the SIAL or the Salon de l’Agriculture (the huge Agricultural show in Paris) are good places to visit. There are also numerous internet sites that promote Japanese products, such as the Facebook page for the Japanese Sake & Spirits Society.