What follows is a list of the basic expressions bandied about in the world of shochu and awamori.
Bold words have their own entry in the Shochu Glossary.
ABV — alcohol by volume. Most honkaku shochu is bottled at or around 25% ABV.
awamori (泡盛 – あわもり – awamori) — a type of rice shochu produced in Okinawa Prefecture, the most southern part of Japan. The restrictions that make it unique within the shochu world include: exclusive use of black kōji; single fermentation; single distillation; and use of indica rice.
honkaku (本格 – ほんかく – honkaku) — premium; authentic; genuine; original method; the real deal. This word is usually found at the beginning of the phrase “honkaku shochu,” and it refers to single distilled shochu that uses only the ingredients allowed by current tax laws. Used on labels, and occasionally in conversation, to differentiate from multiple-distilled, kōrui shochu.
imo shochu (芋 焼酎 – いも しょうちゅう – imo shouchuu) — potato shochu. Often reduced to simply imo in conversation, this type of shochu is made with tens of different potato varietals. The most common family of potatoes used, however, is sweet potato.
kōji (麹 – こうじ – kouji) — a starch source (rice, barley, etc.) that has a particular strain of mold (kōji kin) living in it. Kōji is necessary to assist with saccharification during fermentation. There are three main mold varieties used today: black, white, and yellow. Shochu uses all three colors while awamori only uses black kōji. Yellow kōji happens to be the variety used to make nihonshu as well.
kome shochu (米 焼酎 – こめ しょうちゅう – kome shouchuu) — rice shochu. Often reduced to simply kome in conversation.
kōrui (甲類 – こうるい – kourui) — usually found at the front of the expression kōrui shochu, it refers to multiply distilled product that has been watered down to 35% ABV. It is generally used as a low calorie vodka substitute in cocktails.
mizuwari (水割り – みずわり – mizuwari) — shochu mixed with water. This type of mix often includes ice.
mugi shochu (麦 焼酎 – むぎ しょうちゅう – mugi shouchuu) — barley shochu. Often reduced to simply mugi in conversation.
nihonshu (日本酒 – にほんしゅ – nihonshu) — the correct word for saké. Saké actually means “alcohol” in Japanese, so shochu is also technically saké–as are tequila, beer, and wine. Nihonshu is a brewed alcoholic beverage made from rice, kōji, yeast, and water. Nihonshu also goes by the alias seishu.
oyuwari (お湯割り – おゆわり – oyuwari) — shochu mixed with hot water. The most popular ratio is 6:4 (six parts shochu to four parts hot water). Unlike when preparing a mizuwari mix, the shochu should be poured second when mixing it oyuwari.
saké (酒 – さけ) — the Japanese word for alcohol. The correct pronunciation is /sah-keh/. This word is routinely and erroneously used outside of Japan to refer to nihonshu.
shochu (焼酎 – しょうちゅう – shouchuu) — a distilled alcoholic beverage indigenous to Japan that can be made from dozens of base ingredients. There are two major types of shochu, honkaku and kōrui. Honkaku shochu is governed by stricter production regulations (ie. single distillation), boasts delicious aroma and flavor components, and is more expensive. Kōrui shochu can be made from most anything containing starch, is distilled repeatedly to shed its aroma and flavor profile, and is much cheaper. A third, in-between category known as konwa shochu is a blend of the two major types.
soju (소주) — Korea’s beverage of choice. The vast majority of soju is multiple-distilled until it loses its flavor and aroma, diluted down to 18-22% ABV, and riddled with additives. It has its place alongside spicy Korean food, but then again so do many light, sweet beverages.
shuzō (酒造 – しゅぞう – shuzou) — brewing/distilling alcohol. Sometimes used to mean brewery or distillery as well.
umeshu (梅酒 – うめしゅ) — ume, or Japanese apricot/plum, macerated with rock sugar in kōrui shochu. Commonly made at home in Japan using large jars that can be purchased at many supermarkets during ume season.