Barley high

March 2010

Just getting into sake? Sorry, sake is so five minutes ago. The hottest new drink from Japan is shochu, which is distilled from a mixture of things including barley, buckwheat, sweet potato and sugar. And it has a long and venerable history.

As far back as 1549, when the missionary Francis Xavier visited Kagoshima Prefecture, he noted it and wrote,
“I have not seen a single drunkard. That is because once inebriated they immediately lie down and go to sleep.”  
Good plan.

Which also points to its early history as the Japanese equivalent of cheap sweet sherry in a brown paper bag. Now, shochu is cool as. And you can find it, drink it and learn all about it at Tokonoma Shochu Bar & Lounge (490 Crown Street Surry Hills, Ph 9357 6100). There is a rumour going around that, although it weights in at 25% alcohol by volume, it doesn’t hit you as hard as beer or sake. Totally unsubstantiated, but only one way to find out. And if it’s not true, just lie down and go to sleep.

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