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A clear cocktail served in a highball glass with ice, garnished with a pink sakura flower.
A cocktail made with traditional Japanese shōchū.
Courtesy of JFOODO

Where to Find Great Japanese Shōchū Cocktails

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A cocktail made with traditional Japanese shōchū.
| Courtesy of JFOODO
This advertising content was produced in collaboration between Vox Creative and our sponsor, without involvement from Vox Media editorial staff.

Traditional Japanese shōchū has long been under-appreciated in the U.S. (though Japanese sake is well-known), but bars around the country have recently started to catch on. The spirit has started to appear on more and more drink menus, and this month, nine mixologists have crafted original, limited-edition shōchū cocktails for restaurants in New York City and Los Angeles.

Although its name sounds similar to the low-ABV Korean Soju, the Japanese drink known as shōchū is a completely different experience. The specific flavor profile of shōchū depends on its base ingredient, but it’s usually described as a mix between whiskey and a mild vodka. Authentic shōchū has been distilled in Japan since the 16th century and is typically made from a variety of ingredients including barley, sweet potatoes, or rice. As many as 50 other ingredients — including Koji mold, also found in miso and soy sauce — are used to break down the starches. Unique Japanese techniques of fermentation, brewing, and distillation give shōchū its clean, smooth, and rich aroma. Shōchū’s sophisticated taste comes from the richness of flavors not present in other spirits, making it easier to create new, never-been-made-before cocktails.

To try some shōchū creations for yourself, check out one of the spots below. (In addition to these options, there’ll also be a pop-up bar at NYC spot GONGO from Feb. 3rd through Feb. 13th, where you can enjoy several Japanese shōchū cocktails created by collaborative mixologists or enjoy shōchū with traditional Japanese drinking styles.)

The latest CDC guidance for vaccinated diners during the COVID-19 outbreak is here; dining out still carries risks for unvaccinated diners and workers. Please be aware of changing local rules, and check individual restaurant websites for any additional restrictions such as mask requirements. Find a local vaccination site here.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Thyme Bar

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20 W 23rd St
Cellar, NY 10010
(646) 600-9257
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This underground cocktail haven has an a la carte offering — but it’s much more fun to reserve the five-course tasting menu ($85), which includes an amuse bouche, two cocktails, one food item, and one dessert. Guests can choose their cocktails from two menus, Le Jardin and Floriography. For a shōchū-based cocktail, try the Yushoku Mae (“perfect before dinner”) from head mixologist Jeremy Le Blance. The cocktail uses a sweet potato shōchū (Kuro Kirishima), with a slightly spiced kümmel that balances the shōchū’s floral profile.

Jeremy Le Blance, and a cocktail served in a teacup placed in a wooden box.
​​Head Mixologist Jeremy Le Blance and the Yushoku Mae cocktail.
Courtesy of JFOODO

2. Angel's Share

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8 Stuyvesant St
New York, NY 10003
(212) 777-5415
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Led by manager and head bartender Atsushi Nakayamane, one of New York City’s oldest speakeasy-style bars is still one of its best. Even though plenty of people know how to access the semi-hidden craft cocktail spot tucked behind an East Village Japanese restaurant, the tuxedoed bartenders continue to impress customers with perfectly executed drinks that often highlight signature Japanese ingredients and techniques. Try bartender Tsunetaka Imada’s Verre de vin cocktail with Aka Kirishima, an authentic sweet potato shōchū — its aroma and clear, sweet taste is similar to that of wine.

Two mixologists, and a red shōchū cocktail served in a wine glass on a wooden bar table. 
Mixologists at Angel’s Share, and the speakeasy’s shōchū cocktail.
Courtesy of JFOODO

3. Bar Moga

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128 W Houston St
New York, NY 10012
(929) 399-5853
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This 1920s-style Japanese bar with a yoshoku (Japanese-adapted Western cooking) menu has excellent food and drinks, so come hungry and thirsty. There’s an extensive shōchū-by-the-glass list (next to the long sake and Japanese whiskey menu), divided into categories like sweet potato, barley, rice, and specialty. And out of 12 cocktail options, four feature different types of shōchū. Try the Zireael cocktail from Team MOGA (led by head bartender John Anthony Ober): It’s a combination of Beni Ikko shōchū and gin, with an extra twist added from smoked Sakura wood.

A mixologist, and a clear cocktail served in a cognac glass and garnished with a sakura flower.
A mixologist at Bar Moga, and the bar’s Zireael cocktail.
Courtesy of JFOODO

4. Martiny’s

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Gramercy Park
New York, NY

Master bartender Takuma Watanabe’s last day mixing drinks at Angel’s Share was in September, after working there for nine years. His next venture will be in Gramercy at Martiny’s, a soon-to-open cocktail bar. There, he’ll curate a menu of refined cocktails, including (of course) a classic martini, the bar’s namesake. Also among the cocktails on the menu will be the Guardian Deity, with Iichiko Saiten shōchū (made from 100% two-row barley and fermented with koji). The simple ingredients bring a refreshing taste to the barley shōchū flavor.

Takuma Watanabe, and a golden cocktail garnished with basil leaves served in a martini glass.
Master Bartender Takuma Watanabe and Martiny’s Guardian Deity cocktail.
Courtesy of JFOODO

5. Oldies

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269 36th St
Brooklyn, NY 11232
(347) 584-4577
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From the owners behind Angel’s Share (Tony Yoshida and his daughter Erina), this newish Industry City bar is more relaxed than its predecessor. Head bartender John Carlson has built a reputation in the NYC cocktail scene, and many of Oldies’ drinks feature Japanese whiskies, sakes, and shōchūs combined with freshly squeezed fruit juices. For example, the key ingredient in Oldies’ Okinawa Gold cocktail is Nankai Gold, a premium blended shōchū hailing from Amami Island in Japan, finished in oak casks.

John Carlson, and a golden cocktail served in a rocks glass.
Head bartender John Carlson and Oldies’ Okinawa Gold cocktail.
Courtesy of JFOODO

6. Thunderbolt

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1263 W Temple St
Los Angeles, CA 90026
(213) 372-5099
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A welcoming Echo Park bar with comfy leather couches, orange bar stools, and green walls, Thunderbolt boasts inventive drinks and Southern food (think pimento cheese, biscuits, and fried chicken). The drinks are more eclectic — featuring flavors from the tropics, Asia, and Mexico. Try head bartender Tom G. Liu’s Fu Gwaa Falsetto, which combines the layered Iichiko Saiten shōchū, rum, bittermelon, chamomile, avéze liqueur, lemon, and li hing mui (dried, salted plum powder). 

Tom G. Liu, and a bright yellow cocktail served in a delmonico glass.
Head bartender Tom G. Liu with the Fu Gwaa Falsetto cocktail.
Courtesy of JFOODO

7. Shibumi

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815 S Hill St
Los Angeles, CA 90014
(323) 484-8915
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If you’re interested in trying shōchū by the glass, then this intimate restaurant has a lengthy list of options to peruse. It includes bottles like Tenshi no Yuwaku, a premium sweet potato shōchū aged in sherry casks in Kagoshima Prefecture, and the handcrafted 10-year-aged Motoko rice shōchū. If cocktails are more your thing, they range from highballs to a classic gin martini. Or, try mixologist Chris Gomez’s Hojichawari cocktail, which fuses Japanese and Viennese traditions. It’s made with hot hojicha and Sakura Shiranami shōchū, and served with whipped cream to add a Viennese taste. The roasted aroma of the hojicha, the smooth sweetness of the whipped cream, and the warm taste of the shochu make it the perfect cocktail for the wintertime.

Chris Gomez, and a golden cocktail served in a delmonico glass at the bar.
Shibumi Beverage Director Chris Gomez and a cocktail made from the Satsuma Shiranami Sweet Potato shōchū.
Courtesy of JFOODO

8. V DTLA

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515 W 7th St
Los Angeles, CA 90014
(510) 858-6581
Visit Website

If you’re craving pizza, then this massive downtown spot will satisfy that urge — plus keep your senses engaged with its over-the-top design, DJ mixes, and a craft cocktail list. Recently reopened after an 18-month closure, the space lets patrons once again sip drinks like head mixologist Danny Cruz’s YuYu Mizu shōchū cocktail. By mixing shōchū into this basil and ginger-based drink, Cruz proves that shōchū can be herbaceous and full-bodied even though many people think of it as sweet.

Danny Cruz, and a bright yellow cocktail served in a rocks glass and garnished with basil.
Head Mixologist Danny Cruz and the YuYu Mizu cocktail.
Courtesy of JFOODO
This advertising content was produced in collaboration between Vox Creative and our sponsor, without involvement from Vox Media editorial staff.

1. Thyme Bar

20 W 23rd St, Cellar, NY 10010
Jeremy Le Blance, and a cocktail served in a teacup placed in a wooden box.
​​Head Mixologist Jeremy Le Blance and the Yushoku Mae cocktail.
Courtesy of JFOODO

This underground cocktail haven has an a la carte offering — but it’s much more fun to reserve the five-course tasting menu ($85), which includes an amuse bouche, two cocktails, one food item, and one dessert. Guests can choose their cocktails from two menus, Le Jardin and Floriography. For a shōchū-based cocktail, try the Yushoku Mae (“perfect before dinner”) from head mixologist Jeremy Le Blance. The cocktail uses a sweet potato shōchū (Kuro Kirishima), with a slightly spiced kümmel that balances the shōchū’s floral profile.

20 W 23rd St
Cellar, NY 10010

2. Angel's Share

8 Stuyvesant St, New York, NY 10003
Two mixologists, and a red shōchū cocktail served in a wine glass on a wooden bar table. 
Mixologists at Angel’s Share, and the speakeasy’s shōchū cocktail.
Courtesy of JFOODO

Led by manager and head bartender Atsushi Nakayamane, one of New York City’s oldest speakeasy-style bars is still one of its best. Even though plenty of people know how to access the semi-hidden craft cocktail spot tucked behind an East Village Japanese restaurant, the tuxedoed bartenders continue to impress customers with perfectly executed drinks that often highlight signature Japanese ingredients and techniques. Try bartender Tsunetaka Imada’s Verre de vin cocktail with Aka Kirishima, an authentic sweet potato shōchū — its aroma and clear, sweet taste is similar to that of wine.

8 Stuyvesant St
New York, NY 10003

3. Bar Moga

128 W Houston St, New York, NY 10012
A mixologist, and a clear cocktail served in a cognac glass and garnished with a sakura flower.
A mixologist at Bar Moga, and the bar’s Zireael cocktail.
Courtesy of JFOODO

This 1920s-style Japanese bar with a yoshoku (Japanese-adapted Western cooking) menu has excellent food and drinks, so come hungry and thirsty. There’s an extensive shōchū-by-the-glass list (next to the long sake and Japanese whiskey menu), divided into categories like sweet potato, barley, rice, and specialty. And out of 12 cocktail options, four feature different types of shōchū. Try the Zireael cocktail from Team MOGA (led by head bartender John Anthony Ober): It’s a combination of Beni Ikko shōchū and gin, with an extra twist added from smoked Sakura wood.

128 W Houston St
New York, NY 10012

4. Martiny’s

Gramercy Park, New York, NY
Takuma Watanabe, and a golden cocktail garnished with basil leaves served in a martini glass.
Master Bartender Takuma Watanabe and Martiny’s Guardian Deity cocktail.
Courtesy of JFOODO

Master bartender Takuma Watanabe’s last day mixing drinks at Angel’s Share was in September, after working there for nine years. His next venture will be in Gramercy at Martiny’s, a soon-to-open cocktail bar. There, he’ll curate a menu of refined cocktails, including (of course) a classic martini, the bar’s namesake. Also among the cocktails on the menu will be the Guardian Deity, with Iichiko Saiten shōchū (made from 100% two-row barley and fermented with koji). The simple ingredients bring a refreshing taste to the barley shōchū flavor.

Gramercy Park
New York, NY

5. Oldies

269 36th St, Brooklyn, NY 11232
John Carlson, and a golden cocktail served in a rocks glass.
Head bartender John Carlson and Oldies’ Okinawa Gold cocktail.
Courtesy of JFOODO

From the owners behind Angel’s Share (Tony Yoshida and his daughter Erina), this newish Industry City bar is more relaxed than its predecessor. Head bartender John Carlson has built a reputation in the NYC cocktail scene, and many of Oldies’ drinks feature Japanese whiskies, sakes, and shōchūs combined with freshly squeezed fruit juices. For example, the key ingredient in Oldies’ Okinawa Gold cocktail is Nankai Gold, a premium blended shōchū hailing from Amami Island in Japan, finished in oak casks.

269 36th St
Brooklyn, NY 11232

6. Thunderbolt

1263 W Temple St, Los Angeles, CA 90026
Tom G. Liu, and a bright yellow cocktail served in a delmonico glass.
Head bartender Tom G. Liu with the Fu Gwaa Falsetto cocktail.
Courtesy of JFOODO

A welcoming Echo Park bar with comfy leather couches, orange bar stools, and green walls, Thunderbolt boasts inventive drinks and Southern food (think pimento cheese, biscuits, and fried chicken). The drinks are more eclectic — featuring flavors from the tropics, Asia, and Mexico. Try head bartender Tom G. Liu’s Fu Gwaa Falsetto, which combines the layered Iichiko Saiten shōchū, rum, bittermelon, chamomile, avéze liqueur, lemon, and li hing mui (dried, salted plum powder). 

1263 W Temple St
Los Angeles, CA 90026

7. Shibumi

815 S Hill St, Los Angeles, CA 90014
Chris Gomez, and a golden cocktail served in a delmonico glass at the bar.
Shibumi Beverage Director Chris Gomez and a cocktail made from the Satsuma Shiranami Sweet Potato shōchū.
Courtesy of JFOODO

If you’re interested in trying shōchū by the glass, then this intimate restaurant has a lengthy list of options to peruse. It includes bottles like Tenshi no Yuwaku, a premium sweet potato shōchū aged in sherry casks in Kagoshima Prefecture, and the handcrafted 10-year-aged Motoko rice shōchū. If cocktails are more your thing, they range from highballs to a classic gin martini. Or, try mixologist Chris Gomez’s Hojichawari cocktail, which fuses Japanese and Viennese traditions. It’s made with hot hojicha and Sakura Shiranami shōchū, and served with whipped cream to add a Viennese taste. The roasted aroma of the hojicha, the smooth sweetness of the whipped cream, and the warm taste of the shochu make it the perfect cocktail for the wintertime.

815 S Hill St
Los Angeles, CA 90014

8. V DTLA

515 W 7th St, Los Angeles, CA 90014
Danny Cruz, and a bright yellow cocktail served in a rocks glass and garnished with basil.
Head Mixologist Danny Cruz and the YuYu Mizu cocktail.
Courtesy of JFOODO

If you’re craving pizza, then this massive downtown spot will satisfy that urge — plus keep your senses engaged with its over-the-top design, DJ mixes, and a craft cocktail list. Recently reopened after an 18-month closure, the space lets patrons once again sip drinks like head mixologist Danny Cruz’s YuYu Mizu shōchū cocktail. By mixing shōchū into this basil and ginger-based drink, Cruz proves that shōchū can be herbaceous and full-bodied even though many people think of it as sweet.

515 W 7th St
Los Angeles, CA 90014

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