Shochu (Japanese Liquor) - Japanese Encyclopedia
A brief explanation of the Japanese alcoholic beverage, "shochu"
"Shochu" is a type of alcoholic beverage that has been consumed in Japan for ages. Unlike the more well-known Japanese sake (Nihonshu), shochu is a distilled beverage.
While the standard sake in Japan comes in at around 14% alcohol, shochu is comparatively strong, and usually comes between 25-40%. For this reason, it is usually mixed with water or other beverages, not unlike whiskey. Of course, drinking it straight is always an option.
If you try to drink it the same as you would normal sake, you will find yourself drunk in a heartbeat. Be careful when you order.
Shochu can be made from several different ingredients. It is usually made with grain such as rice, barley, or soba (buckwheat), but can also be made with sweet potato, which is known as "imojochu". Imojochu has its own unique scent, and is either something you like right away, or never get used to.
The ingredients and production method differ from region to region in Japan, and Okinawa's "Awamori(泡盛)" is particularly famous.