New York drinkers have seen a trend of single spirit bars dominating the cocktail scene. The city’s drinking public has moved on from wine and beer bars, they now head to Tequila or Rum focused spots. With once obscure spirits like Mezcal gaining popularity in refined drinking circles, there is not a lot left for drinkers to discover. A visit to a posh Japanese restaurant in New York’s West Village turned up what could be the next popular spirit for connoisseurs.
En Shochu Bar lives up to its name by dishing out Shochu – a traditional Japanese distilled liquor. While sake bars are popular in the city, Shochu is still off of the radar of most drinkers. It’s commonly brewed from sweet potatoes, but it can also be created from soba, rice, or barley. While it is probably confused with sake at some spots, Shochu imparts heartier and earthier tasting notes. It’s similar to some of the more flavorful potato vodkas on the market (Karlsson’s Gold comes to mind).
Sommelier Takahiro Okada thinks that the spirit has a good chance of catching on as people discover what he describes as its almost Scotch-like qualities. It’s not as pungent as a Single Malt, but it usually is savored neat or with a little bit of ice. Unlike its Scottish cousin, Shochu is highly mixable. The restaurant uses it in a number of their cocktails and offers a selection of house infusions on the rocks. Brown sugar, fig, plum, and apricot all make for interesting mixes, but the favorite was EN’s ginger mix. The spice of the ginger blended nicely with the earthiness of the Japanese spirit.
And, how will the popularity of Shochu bloom? Well, one way to grow is certainly with tasting flights. EN offers such a sampling on their menu for $16. Gotta start somewhere, so why not with these three glasses of the spirit? En Shochu Bar is located at 435 Hudson Street.
James Mulcahy writes about spirits and New York nightlife at