Compared to distilled liquors from the west, Amami Kokuto Shochu has a stronger umami flavor and tends to amplify the essence of foods such as fruits and vegetables. This is because of how Amami Kokuto Shochu is made: rice malt is used in the primary preparation stage, brown sugar in the second addition stage, and because it is distilled only once (pot distillation method). Amami Kokuto Shochu's ability to enhance flavors make this a perfect liquor to dine with, especially when it is paired with dishes that complement the qualities of each brand. That is why the Japanese have long enjoyed Amami Kokuto Shochu as a dining experience as well.
Some brands have a hint of salt. Since the Amami Islands are surrounded by the ocean, the groundwater used in the production is rich in minerals. The rich ocean minerals are why this shochu works so well with seafood.
Clear and Fruity Type
This type has an alcohol content of approximately 25%, with scents of apples and Muscat grapes. The fruity flavors make this a crowd pleaser and can be enjoyed in ways that enhance the core taste of Amami Kokuto Shochu: mixed with soda or on the rocks.
When infused with fruits or herbs (for example, cucumbers or mint leaves), the umami from the rice malt intensifies the flavors of the key ingredients comparably more than other spirits.
Pairing with Fresh or
White Rind Cheeses
Try pairing Amami Kokuto Shochu and soda with fresh or white rind cheeses. The refined sweetness of brown sugar fizzing as the cheese slowly disappears in your mouth is a precious combination. Fresh or semi-soft cheeses such as mozzarella, with its mild and balanced tang goes well with Amami Kokuto Shochu cocktails or with soda. When white rind cheeses or rich, cream types such as Brillat-Savarin are served with pickled vegetables, the indulgent cream tampers the sourness while bringing out the sweetness of the vegetables. Further, these cheeses work well with jams and other sweet condiments and can turn into superb dessert options, whether the Amami Kokuto Shochu is taken straight, on the rocks or with soda.
• Cheeses: Mozzarella, Camembert de Normandie, Delice papaya, Brillat-Savarin, Fin Briard á la Liqueurd’Orange.
Pairing with Cucumbers or
This Amami Kokuto Shochu type is not overbearing and is very versatile. When infused with thin slices of unripe cucumbers (or other vegetables from the gourd family) or shiso leaves, they bring out a refreshing, melon-like aroma.
Or, go back to basics and enjoy Amami Kokuto Shochu with olives or pickles. A unique, Amami region favorite is the pickled papaya, which is perfect to accompany Amami Kokuto Shochu.
• Amami Kokuto Shochu with sliced cucumbers, and pickled papayas
Pairing with Fruits such as
Summer in Amami Oshima is the height of tropical fruit season, such as the passion fruits. Take a ripe passion fruit, cut it open, pour in this type of Amami Kokuto Shochu, mix it with a spoon and go for it: a possibly messy, but truly exquisite, tropical island cocktail.
The Clear and Fruity Type Amami Kokuto Shochu is also perfect for mixing with different fruit juices. For vodka- or rum-based cocktails, it is a satisfying alternative: try an Amami Daiquiri, an Amami take on the standard cocktail.
• Amami Daiquiri, chocolates and caramel popcorn.
Clear, Grain-Flavor Type
While this type also has an alcohol content of approximately 25%, the scents of steamed rice and grains distinguish this type from the Fruity Type. The dry flavor, and with some brands a salty hint, make this suitable for mixing with soda or on the rocks.
Compared to the Fruity Type, the flavor is neutral; however, the Grain-Flavor Type is more capable of enhancing the tastes of foods, making this the ideal Amami Kokuto Shochu to have with meals.
Pairing with Hard or
Comté tends to acquire umami from amino acids and a chestnut or hazelnut aroma as it ripens. The scent of Amami Kokuto Shochu amplifies this aroma. While the Grain-Flavor Type works well with many serving styles such as on the rocks, straight, with soda, etc., heating Amami Kokuto Shochu really brings out the fragrance. When considering Ossau-Iraty to accompany Amami Kokuto Shochu, the soothing tartness and sweetness from sheep’s milk and its richness strike an elegant balance especially with some black cherry jam, honey or salty hams.
• Cheeses: Comté, Ossau-Iraty
Pairing with Grains
Such as Rye
The recognizable, cereal-like scent of grains and this type of Amami Kokuto Shochu complement each other. The basic ham-and-cheese-on-rye sandwich or hamburgers, as well as popcorn, are casual ways of enjoying the chemistry.
• Popcorn and sandwich on rye
Pairing with Fried Foods
Sprinkled with Salt
French fries, fried chicken, fried shrimp, various croquettes, tempura--try crispy fried foods with a dash of salt, together with this mineral-rich Amami Kokuto Shochu.
The locals in Amami Oshima enjoy crunchy seaweed tempura or mozuku tempura garnished only with salt. Try Grain-Flavored Amami Kokuto Shochu on the rocks, mizuwari (mixed with water), or with soda and a twist of lemon for the best match with these foods.
• Seaweed Tempura and lemony Amami Kokuto Shochu Highball
Coarse filtration in the production process gives this type a slightly cloudy visage. While there are other Amami Kokuto Shochu brands that cloud up with added water or ice, the opacity of the Cloudy Type is already in the bottle, and of course, intentional.
Many brands in this type have stronger umami, scent, and taste of the koji rice malt, with a generally indulgent aroma. There are two groups within the Cloudy Type, by aroma: one that has apples and Muscat grape fragrances, and the other with steamed rice and grain-like aromas. Alcohol content varies as well.
Pairing with Chevre
Chevre is mild with a fresh acidity when young, but gains the right balance of salt and tang with a richness and a savory aroma as it ages, taking on a generous, lasting flavor. In the Amami Islands, historically, goat dishes were served with Amami Kokuto Shochu, an indication of the wonderful union between Amami Kokuto Shochu and chevre. A pinch of salt on chevre brings out the lushness, and a dollop of sweet jam or honey makes chevre into a dessert. They are both perfect with a Cloudy Type Amami Kokuto Shochu.
• Cheeses: Saint-Maure de Touraine
A dish called Tonkotsu, pork stewed in Amami Kokuto Shochu, has been an Amami Islands favorite for generations. Enjoy the combination of Amami Kokuto Shochu and the concentrated umami of pork fat and root vegetables. While Amami Kokuto Shochu on the rocks delivers, try mixing it with hot water for an inviting and fragrant experience.
A more relaxed approach would be to pair Cloudy Type Amami Kokuto Shochu with pork pâté, ham, salami, or rillettes.
• Tonkotsu, cooked in Amami Kokuto Shochu
Pairing with Fermented Foods,
such as Miso
Miso, or fermented bean paste, has always played an integral part in Japanese cuisine. The Amami Islands have their own version of barley miso, called Shima Miso (“Island Miso”). Shima Miso makes a savory dip for vegetable sticks, or as a sauce for stir-fried vegetables that go well with this type of Amami Kokuto Shochu.
• Vegetable sticks with Miso Dip
Unprocessed or High Alcohol Content Type
These are Amami Kokuto Shochu with an alcohol content exceeding 30%. As with other spirits, Amami Kokuto Shochu improves with age and many in this type are sold only after maturing for a long period of time. This category includes Amami Kokuto Shochu which was matured in earthenware pots, enamelware containers or stainless tanks, but not those aged in wooden barrels (see next category).
This type is distinguished by a rich, mellow flavor that is smoother than the Amami Kokuto Shochu with less than 25% alcohol. Similar to the Cloudy Type, this can also be separated into two groups; those with apples and Muscat grape aromas, and the other with steamed rice and grain-like scents.
Pairing with Washed
Unprocessed or high alcohol type Amami Kokuto Shochu is fragrant, rich and robust, with an elegant sweetness from brown sugar. It is deeply satisfying, and the perfect pair is with washed rind cheeses. Try this type with some Époisses, a cheese with concentrated aroma and flavors from washing it with distilled grape pomace, Marc de Bourgogne.
• Cheese: Époisses
Pairing with Sweets and Various
Nuts: Peanuts, Walnuts, and
Just like whiskeys and brandies, high alcohol Amami Kokuto Shochu has simple yet wonderful compatibility with nuts, especially with Kokuto Peanuts, a locally manufactured snack of the Amami Islands. The Amami Islands also has a traditional drink, Miki, made by fermenting rice and sweet potatoes which the locals cherish. Chilled Miki is a good mixer for Amami Kokuto Shochu during the summer, and can also be made into a Amami Kokuto Shochu dessert such as a Miki Bavarian Cream.
• Kokuto Peanuts and Miki Bavarian Cream
Pairing with Rich or
High alcohol Amami Kokuto Shochu is a delight with Chinese cuisine because it brings out the lovely oils and spices in each dish. Other amazing pairs include Amami regions' “soul food,” a noodle dish called Abura Zomen, or Spaghetti Carbonara with a generous helping of black pepper will also be fantastic.
• Spaghetti Carbonara with black pepper, and Amami Kokuto Shochu in a wine glass.
Wooden Barrel Aged Type
These are Amami Kokuto Shochu with an alcohol content of over 30%, aged in wooden barrels during the production process and look golden or honey-colored. There are reminders of the wooden barrel in the aroma and flavor, such as vanilla, smokiness, nuts, and honey. Most of this type can be savored by itself.
Amami Kokuto Shochu aged in wooden barrels clearly retain the characteristics of the barrel, with rich, deep and robust flavors. It has the integrity to be paired with sharp and strong blue cheeses, especially when served on the rocks or straight.
• Cheeses: Blue d’Auvergne, Roquefort, Persille de chèvre.
Pairing with Smoked Foods
The woody scent from the barrels is a mouthwatering fit with the smoky aroma of these foods. Grilled bacon and sausages, as well as smoked salmon, are superb and easy to prepare companions.
• Deliciously grilled bacon and Amami Kokuto Shochu, on the rocks.
Pairings with Desserts
Chocolates are exceptional partners to the vanilla, nuts, caramel, and smoky scents that linger from the wooden barrel. Other partners include chocolate or coffee-based desserts, freshly baked apple pie, and caramel popcorn. Or drizzle some Wooden Barrel Type Amami Kokuto Shochu onto ice creams such as vanilla, chocolate, or matcha green tea ice cream, as an original take on desserts for adults. Similar to whiskeys and brandies, this type is also suited as a dessert drink; to fully immerse yourself in the wonderful aroma, try this Amami Kokuto Shochu in a brandy glass, a whiskey snifter or a lemon-sized wine glass at room temperature, and bask in the lingering afterglow.
• Vanilla ice cream drenched in Wooden Barrel Type Amami Kokuto Shochu.