Sake vs Shochu

Alcohol has been in human’s life long before we know the variants of fancy drinks today. There are lots of different alcoholic beverages that may look the same but are actually different, such as the Japanese traditional Sake Vs Shochu. These beverages are often mistaken for each other and some people may use the term interchangeably but, the two are quite different. For those enthusiasts who wonder what makes them different and which attracts your interest better, do check our comparison below.

In this article, we are going to give you information about:

  • What is the History of Alcoholic Beverage
  • What are Sake and Shochu
  • What are the Types of Sake 
  • What are the Types of Shochu
  • How are the Making Process of Sake 
  • How are Making Process of Shochu
  • Sake Vs Shochu

History of Alcoholic Beverage

For many people, alcohol is a part of their daily life, it is a lifestyle, a beverage, and a tool to socialize while also can be categorized as a tranquilizer for some. For the rest, it can be a forbidden beverage that they can never drink for various reasons, typically for religious beliefs or due to health conditions. While they are almost like a soft drink in many countries, the root of alcoholic beverage itself has been long integrated with human beings.

According to a source, our ancestors may have begun to get a hang of alcoholic beverages about 10 million years ago, far before the modern human even started to brew their booze. Researchers need to know when exactly humans found a way to make alcohol because it means they will be able to make use of the fruit that falls into the forest floor hence helping them know when humans start to live on the ground as opposed to living mostly in trees.

Fast forwarding to early Egyptian civilization, there has been evidence that people from back then already drank alcoholic beverages, the same with what have been found in China at around 7000 B.C. Even from earlier civilization, people in India have been drinking alcoholic beverages distilled from rice which was done between 3000 and 2000 B.C. Around the same time the Babylonians worshiped a wine goddess from around 2700 B.C. while in Greek literature, it is found there is a beverage made from honey and water.

Among Native American civilization there are also alcoholic beverages developed during the pre-Columbian times and at that time they were made from fermenting corn, grapes, or apples, while being called “chichi” and spreading around the Andes region of South America. During the 16th Century, spirits were used as well but they were meant for medicinal purposes. Distilling spirits from grain only began in the early 18th Century by the permission of British parliament. Starting from then, cheap spirits flooded the market, reaching its peak in the mid-eighteen century.

This soon led to alcoholism when gin consumption in Britain exploded reaching 18 million gallons so then in the 19th Century, the promotion of moderate alcohol consumption started to be implemented which also began the start of total prohibition. In 1920 the US passed a law prohibiting the manufacture, sale, import, and export of intoxicating liquors but it caused illegal alcohol trade by 1933 so the prohibition was cancelled. In modern days, there is an estimation of 15 million Americans suffering from alcoholism. Read also: La Croix Vs Spindrift.

About Sake and Shochu

While alcoholic beverages are seen as a dangerous substance in some countries or regions based on the culture and various other reasons, in fact many regions have their own alcoholic beverage with a traditional name familiar with the people around the same area. They can be uniquely made to match the region’s produce or utilizing what can be made into the beverage. Among those many variants of alcoholic drink, traditionally Sake and Shochu are probably what many of us are familiar with.

Asian spirits are loved by many enthusiasts and along with the similar liquor from South Korea called Soju, Sake and Shochu are also enjoying a new trend. For those who love Japanese foods or often dining at Japanese restaurants, this spirit is not a new name and probably among your favorite. But, by coming from the same place and virtually looking the same as other clear spirits, it can be difficult to tell them apart without knowing what exactly in that bottle you order.

Sake or also commonly called as nihonshu is familiar by the name like Japanese rice wine which is actually misleading because in terms of processing itself this spirit is more similar to beer thus, it is better to call it with the original name to avoid further misconception. In the home country itself, Sake can be enjoyed anywhere you go, from cramped bars full of smoke to high-end restaurants. Anywhere you go that serve alcohol will also have at least some basic variants of Sake in the menu.

As for Shochu, this spirit may sound like Soju if pronounced quickly but they are coming from different countries, however, the making process itself is similar and in modern day, Soju is probably less strict as it is internationalized and being consumed outside the country with variants of interesting, cute flavors. The Shochu name itself has the same meaning as Soju and the process is said to have originated in Korea first than have been found in Japan.

  • Sake Types

As varying as the alcoholic beverage in the world, both Sake and Shochu are also coming in lots of options to try. In the past Sake was only classified as Tokkyu or special class, Ikkyu or first class, and Nikkyu or second class but this hierarchy is not used anymore. Instead, they are separated into 5 main kinds today. Junmai-shu contains unadulterated sake and no brewer’s alcohol or starch and sugar is added. Ginjo-shu is made with rice in which 40% is milled while 60% is in original size.

It is known to have wonderful aroma and light flavor. Daiginjo-shu is a type of Ginjo-shu but includes milled rice in percentage between 35%-50% with high fragrance and full body as well as delicate taste. Honjozo-shu uses sake rice which has a Seimaibuai or degree of milling of 70% and made by adding brewer’s alcohol. Namazake is a name used to call alcohol that is not pasteurized thus, all sake can be namazake but they need to be refrigerated to keep aroma and flavor.

  • Shochu Types

As for Shochu, this liquor is differentiated based on the main ingredient. First is Kome shochu which is made from rice and has a milder flavor that can be a great start for a beginner. Imo shochu is made from sweet potatoes and has a strong aroma or flavor while also being enjoyed warm. Mugi shochu is made from barley so it is mild and similarly good for a beginner option. Kokuto shochu is made from brown sugar but is not common and difficult to find.

Soba shochu is similar to its name, made from buckwheat and is fairly new with a mild flavor. Awamori is made from long-grain Thai rice which originated from Okinawa and can be stronger than 25-30%. Lastly Chuai is a cocktail based on shochu with a fruity characteristic and is said to taste great on the rocks.

  • Sake Making Process

The process to make Sake and Shochu are also different and starting with Sake, this beverage is chosen from the ingredients selection. After the rice has been selected, it is washed and soaked before steaming. After rice is taken out of the steamer, it must be cooled first using a modern or traditional method. Next is Koji making in a room lined with western red cedar. Koji itself is a mold used to ferment and make alcohol. 

After Koji is ready, mix it into water and yeast in a fermentation tank then steamed rice will be added. After completion is determined by brewmaster, the mixture is drained and pressed to capture the liquid only. The Sake then can be stored for a longer time or directly bottled.

  • Shochu Making Process

For Shochu, they are distilled in two methods; single distilling and multiple distilling. Among the two, Honkaku shochu or single distilled is the one that inherited the flavor of the ingredient. This liquor also uses Koji and at the second stage, it is mixed with yeast and water to ferment and create preliminary moromi. If the shochu is made from sweet potato, this ingredient is washed, steamed, and cooled down then crushed then mixed with preliminary moromi which in this stage is called secondary moromi.

The last step is the distillation and maturing or bottling process. After unprocessed shochu is matured, the liquid is filtered and then bottled or if needed, the alcohol level can be adjusted by adding water depending on the manufacturer.

Sake vs Shochu

These Japanese alcohol may be similar to each other but they are also different and besides from the ingredient options in which Shochu can be made from various different ingredients, they also differ in the process. The main difference is that Sake is brewed alcohol while Shochu is distilled liquor and leads to a difference in alcohol content as well. On average Sake usually has around 15% alcohol while Shochu has around 20-25% and some even as high as 42%.

Sake Shochu
- Brewed alcohol- Distilled liquor
- Made from fermenting rice- Made from various ingredients
- Low in alcohol- Typically higher in alcohol


The two are delicious and it is about preference in which will taste better for you. The two are ideal to be paired with various foods including sashimi and we like both of them yet for Shochu, the single distillation is the best as it still has the taste of its original ingredient.