Cheers March 2015

Cheers is dedicated to delivering hospitality professionals the information, insights and data necessary to drive their beverage business by covering trends and innovations in operations, merchandising, service and training.

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Page 39 of 59 40 • March 2015 LaFranconi, executive director of mixology and spirits education for Southern Wine and Spirits. SHOCHU/SOJU SIPS Korean soju is generally made from rice, barley, wheat, tapioca or a range of starches. Soju's popularity had been limited primarily to California restaurants, Korean and otherwise, because the state's rules allow lower- alcohol beverages to be served in operations with limited licenses. Japanese shochu is distilled mainly from rice, barley, sweet potato or buckwheat, but also sesame, sugar cane, even green tea. Shochu has become more widely available through the efforts of bars and restaurants looking to create an authentic Japanese dining experience here. Both shochu and soju are generally unaged, though many aged versions exist. The cocktail menu at Umi includes a sake cocktail called the Lightweight. It combines milky nigori sake, sweet potato shochu, grapefruit, lychee and a splash of Asahi beer. "The cocktail ends up being super approachable," says Bowen. "The sake and lychee work together to create a round creaminess, while the shochu and beer add an earthiness that balance it out." Bowen recently developed a cocktail for a shochu competition that he plans to add to Umi's list this spring. Called the Koyo Front, the drink uses a rice-based shochu mixed with yuzu, jasmine syrup, shiso leaf, tonic and garnished with yellowtail and jalapeño. The cocktail, which pairs with most anything on Umi's menu, already has a following among those who know about it through word of mouth, he says. Yusho restaurant in the Monte Carlo Hotel in Las Vegas carries both sake and shochu. Concept creator/chef Matthias Merges points out that the Japanese and Korean varieties of shochu have subtle differences, but few consumers in the U.S. would be able to pick up on them. "Both sake and shochu are incredibly yeast/koji-driven products, meaning much of their aromatics and fl avors come from the microorganisms used in production, not unlike wine and beer," Merges says. "As a result, you get a very diverse array of potential end fl avors, so that makes them so attractive to us. " What's more, sake and shochu "are very terroir-driven, something we are always drawn to, and that can be something tough to fi nd in higher- alcohol spirits for which distillation removes those characters," he says. EN Japanese Brasserie in New York carries a broad range of Japanese beverages—beers, extensive sakes, shochus plus shochu cocktails. Its EN Shochu Bar offers more than 20 types of shochu, depending on availability, in addition to more than 50 types of sake, mostly small-producer, biodynamic and traditional-method varieties. Why so many shochus? In Japan, more people drink shochu than sake, says EN general manager Michelle Hand, noting that it is especially popular in southern Japan. The restaurant strives to offer an authentic Japanese experience. The shochus EN sells are distilled just once, Hand says, so they retain more fl avor than many others. It lists the shochus by primary source (barley, rice, sesame) and also includes brief tasting notes; shochus are offered by the glass, 10-oz. decanter or bottle. Shochus are also included in EN's multicourse dinner pairings. "It's something that's so popular in Japan, BAIJIU is a clear spirit from China distilled primarily from sorghum, but also from rice, barley, millet and combinations of these grains; it's graded by its aromatic qualities. SHOCHU is distilled mainly from rice, barley, sweet potato or buckwheat, but also sesame, sugar cane, even green tea. SOJU is a Korean spirit generally distilled from rice, barley, wheat, tapioca or a range of starches. SAKE is brewed from fermented rice in a process similar to making beer. Grades of sake vary by how polished the rice is—the more polished the kernel, the fi ner the sake. Umi restaurant in Atlanta offers a selection of craft and seasonal sakes, including several fruit-fl avored varieties. PHOTOS ON THIS PAGE: SARA HANNA PHOTOGRAPHY

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