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What is the difference between Sake and Shochu?

This is one of the most frequent questions when I was working in Japanese restaurants in Hong Kong. Sake is more popular than Japanese Shochu, there are lots of Sake breweries who already have been exporting their products.

When it comes to Shochu, you may think it is a Korean drink, but we have a lot of Shochu in Japan, too. Today, I am going to write what the difference between the two of them. If you want to try some Sake or Shochu in Japan, this article might be helpful for you.

3 big differences between Sake and Shochu

When people asked about this, I would always answer;

"There are 3 big differences.
1. the making process
2. ingredients
3. drinking methods."

Shochu is distilled, Sake is not distilled

This is the biggest difference, I think. Sake is not distilled just like wine, and Shochu is distilled beverage same as whisky or vodka.

That is why Shochu usually contains more alcohol than Sake does. Shochu has 25 to 40% alcohol content, whilst most Sake only contains about 15 to 18%.

The end of the process of Sake-brewing, most of the time,  they add some water to reduce its alcohol content. However, the recent trend is not adding water at the end, so that they can produce stronger Sake, Even so, the strongest Sake only has 21%, as long as I know.

Difference of ingredients

Secondly, the ingredients are different. Sake is always made of rice, but Shochu can be made of other ingredients, not only rice, but also wheat(barely), sweet potato, chestnuts, and so on.

How we drink

Also, the way of drinking is different, too. Most of the time, we drink Sake straight, but not many people drink Shochu in the same way. You can enjoy Shochu in a variety of styles, you could put some ice in it or add cold water, hot water, soda water, oolong tea.

Enjoy your drinks!

I hope this article can help you understand Sake and Shochu. Some types of Sake may be available in your country, but I imagine it not very easy to get Japanese Shochu outside of Japan. So, if you like, please try some Shochu in Japan. There are lots of different types of Shochu also. But just remember, it is stronger than Sake which you might already know.


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