Shochu, which surpassed sake consumption in Japan in 2003, is a clear spirit distilled from grain, rice, barley, sweet potato, and/or buckwheat. Low in calories (about 35 calories in 2 ounces) and alcohol content (typically 25 percent), shochu is a delicate spirit that works best in uncomplicated cocktails, infusions, or served neat. It's also known as "soju" in Korea. The spirit can be traced back to 13th century China.
Last week, Haamonii Smooth, a shochu brand based in San Francisco, held an NYC launch event at Irving Mill. Guests, invited via Haamonii's twitter, were asked to tweet live reviews during the tasting, which appear on the homepage of the brand's website. Two cocktails were served, a shochu Arnold Palmer (tea and lemonade) and a shochu, pomegranate, and blueberry concoction. Both were so light and refreshing that the alcohol was barely noticeable. Sipped neat, I found the Haamonii truly lived up to its name--it's so incredibly smooth, that the words "liquid cashmere" came to mind. It's faintly sweet and bright with virtually no alcohol burn. Haamonii also offers a lemon-flavored variety made with natural lemon juice, which is also lovely on its own. Haamonii, or "Harmony," encourages drinkers to pour for others and not the self, so that you'll never drink alone.