Straight? Mixed? Chilled? Warmed? Hot? Shochu really offers an array of options for serving and makes it a most fun and exciting beverage to try. Here are a few ways that shochu can be enjoyed.
First, we encourage you to try shochu in its truest form -- straight -- to directly taste the unique characteristics. This is the preferred method for all Otsu-rui shochu [made with the single distilling method, a very traditional distilling method used since the 14th Century] that is made with raw materials resulting in a clear, rich taste. Serving shochu straight also works well for aged shochu.
On the Rocks
Shochu served chilled with ice makes for a refreshing feeling and is especially recommended for kokuto [sugarcane] and mugi [barley] shochus as well as imo [sweet potato] shochu made with koji mold that imparts a very fruity taste. After pouring it over the ice, be sure to mix it well. Don't fret once the ice melts. The beverage can still be enjoyed as it results in a different taste from the original beverage.
Mix shochu with water to reveal a very soft taste though the mixture remains filled with aroma and flavor. We suggest trying to very different ways to mix shochu with water. First, add 8 parts shochu to 2 parts water over ice immediately prior to imbibing. The other option is to add 6 parts shochu to 4 parts water 24 hours prior to enjoying [you read that right!]. We suggest you try both and compare the difference. Mixing shochu with cold/cooler water is best with mugi [barley] and awamori [Thai rice] shochus.
Now things get very serious with chemistry so we suggest you get the perfect imo [sweet potato] shochu to mix with hot water. This method is recommended for anyone who wants to enjoy Umami flavor and the aroma characteristic of the Otsu-rui shochu. Follow these guidelines carefully for the most optimal experience. First, hot water [ideally 158 °F / 70 °C] has to be poured into the glass before the shochu is poured. The gravity of the hot water is lighter than that of the shochu, which causes the shochu to go down and naturally mix with hot water by convection. Let nature do its thing and the result is a natural, mild taste; no need for a muddler. Recommended ratio is 6 parts shochu to 5 parts hot water.
Thought the traditional way to serve shochu is warmed, it is not as common today. Warmed shochu results in a softer, more mild sweet taste than mixing shochu with hot water. It is suggested that imo [sweet potato] or kome [rice] shochus be enjoyed warmed. Mix 6 parts shochu and 4 parts water and leave overnight. Just before consuming, heat a kuro joka [black pot used for warming shochu] until vapors start to appear from the spout. Although a warming vessel is involved in this method, the shochu is only meant to be warmed [113 °F / 45 °C]. It should not be too hot! And never microwave shochu.