For most non-Japanese, this country’s alcoholic beverage is sake. Although sake, a rice beer, does not foam and is of a clear colour, it is brewed.

Shochu, as the Japanese call it, and soju as the Koreans call it, is a distilled beverage ranging between 17 to 45 per cent alcohol by volume.

In both countries this distillate is by far more popular than any other alcoholic beverage.

In fact it can be called the “vodka” of the Far Eastern world.

Surprisingly the distillation process was taught to occupying Mongols in Persia, who later brought it to Korea when they were busy occupying that country.

Koreans taught Japanese about distillation. All of this happened inthe 13th century.

Japanese distillers use barley, or sweet potato, or buckwheat, or brown sugar, or chestnut, or wheat, or rice.

Sugar and chestnut are seldom used due to their relatively high cost.
Generally, shochu is aged between one and three months, some distillers age it in barrels, but this applies only to high priced versions.

Shochu is consumed at room temperature diluted with water, or mixed with etas or juice, or mixed with soda, ice and a flavouring agent. While sake consumption in Japan in 2012 was 616 219 kilolitres, that of shochu was 1 001,899 kilolitres.

In Korea, the same beverage is called soju, and may be derived from rice, or wheat or sweet potatoes or tapioca. It is generally marketed at 17 per cent ABV, but some distilleries multiple distil it up to 45 per cent ABV. Most Korean distillers used Coffey stills; very few use traditional Korean small stills.

Koreans drink soju much like the Japanese.

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