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Big In Japan

Will shochu become the city’s new sake?

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In Tokyo, sake is being abandoned in favor of shochu, a vodkalike spirit that’s been clobbering rice-wine and beer sales there. Now the drink is gaining momentum in New York.

How’s it made?
Fermented with a mold called koji and then distilled, shochu can be made from barley, rice, wheat, or potato. The rage in Japan is imo, shochu made from sweet potato.

How does it taste?
Like vodka, but nuttier or fruitier depending on the variety.

How much is it?
Sake-size, 750-milliliter bottles run from $50 to $150.

Variations:
SushiSamba’s “chu-tinis” feature muddled cucumbers; French-Asian spot Rêve serves shochu martinis with litchis; midtown’s Totto mixes in pickled fruit. Just-opened EN Japanese Brasserie serves flights of shochu ($16). “All the kids in Japan drink it. It’s smoother than vodka,” says EN co-owner Reika Yo. “Although I don’t know personally—I don’t drink alcohol.”


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