Just In 👉 Sipsmith Just Released Its Rarest Gin Dear Low Dy...

News & New Releases

New York Passes Law to make Japanese Shochu More Widely Available


We recently wrote about how the 500-year-old native spirit of Japan – shochu – is beginning to increase in popularity outside Japan and globally.

Last week, New York State has passed a law demonstrating the same point.  

What's shochu? It's a (typically) unaged spirit made in Japan with barley, sweet potato, rice or sugar cane. Importantly, while it shares historical roots with the Korean soju, it is a distinct category of spirits in flavour and production process – particularly because shochu uses koji.

Learn all about shochu here.

Previously, Japanese shochu sellers faced a dilemma when selling shochu in New York State. They could only sell "shochu" in New York State under a hard liquor license, which is more difficult to obtain than a beer-and-wine licence. If they wished to sell "shochu" under a beer-and-wine licence, the old law forces them to mis-label their product as a "soju", potentially confusing customers.

The new law in New York State amends their Beverage Control Act, allowing shochu of 24% ABV and under to be sold as "shochu" to be sold in places with a beer-and-wine licence.

This move was welcomed by the New York Japanese Restaurant Association (NYJRA) and Japan Saké and Shōchū Makers Association (JSS). Because shochu is "highly versatile"and of lower alcoholic content, this can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks, with soda or in classic cocktails.

More importantly the law in effect makes shochu more widely available for consumption, because Asians restaurants where shochu could pair well with food can easily obtain beer-and-wine licences, and would be able to sell shochu to their customers. 

On this amendment, Anna M. Kaplan, New York State Senator, said:

For years, our state’s backward liquor laws have snubbed Japanese culture by denying the ability of restaurants to serve shochu to their patrons. With this new law, New Yorkers can finally raise a glass of shochu in their neighborhood restaurant and enjoy this popular Japanese heritage product beloved across that world.

 The New York State Senate also noted that this move is a long time coming, considering that shochu is  becoming popular in the United States in highballs, martinis, the Italian cocktail Negroni and Japanese umami cocktails.