Image via SoDo Spirits Facebook page

Shochu is one of Japan’s signature spirits, one often distilled from barley. But when Seattle’s SoDo Spirits opened in 2009, it was the first and only American distillery making the spirit, using the honkaku single-distillation style. Even now, it may only be one of two or three domestic shochus.

Though it’s not a common sight at American bars, SoDo Spirits owner KC Sheehan wants Seattle’s imbibing masses to view shochu as “the ultimate patio drink.” The distillery’s EvenStar shochu is made from pearled Washington barley, and that honkaku distilling process leaves it with more of the starting grain’s flavor, but without the harsh alcoholic finish often associated with vodka. Hence it’s a natural for the type of juice-based cocktails that dominate during the summer months. Sheehan also says shochu has about half the calories of vodka.

EvenStar comes in four subtle flavors—ginger, mint, rosemary, and seeped chilies. Outside of cocktails, shochu can be sipped on its own, mixed with hot water to bring out the flavor, or even hot water and butter for a creamier wintertime drink.

Seattle’s locally made shochu isn’t widely available around town; right now it’s served at Momiji, Tanakasan, Maneki, and Skillet Diner. But you can find it in larger liquor stores, and distillery tours and tasting room visits are free. You’ll leave, as we did, pleasantly tipsy and ready to tell everyone about the locally made Japanese spirit that’s been hiding in plain sight.

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