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Shochu: A Low-Calorie Alternative to Vodka

Shochu: Cheers With Fewer Calories

There's nothing wrong with enjoying a cocktail or two, but if you're concerned with calories and carbs, alcohol can be a fast and easy way to overindulge without even realizing it. The next time you're drinking, try shochu. It's a distilled beverage from Japan that works great in cocktails and has fewer calories than other liquors.

In most cocktails, a 1.5-ounce serving of hard liquor adds about 100 calories per drink, and this is before any juice, tonic, or simple syrup is added. The same amount of shochu only adds about 30 calories, a savings of 70 calories per drink.

Shochu is a clear beverage distilled from grain, barley, sweet potatoes, or buckwheat and contains 20-35 percent alcohol by volume. To put that in perspective, most vodkas are 80 proof, meaning they contain 40 percent alcohol by volume. In terms of taste, shochu resembles vodka, making it a great substitute in a Cosmopolitan or Bloody Mary. It's also great on its own, over ice, or paired with soda or tonic water. The clean taste and smooth finish of the alcohol makes it a really versatile drink that will mix nicely with fruit, herbs, and juices.

Keep in mind that shochu is different than sake or Korean soju, which can be similar in taste and appearance. Soju and sake have a slightly higher calorie count, clocking in at about 65 and 80 calories respectively per 1.5-ounce serving. You can find shochu in Japanese restaurants and markets, cocktail lounges, or buy it online to use at home. American made Haamonii Shochu ($31) is usually the easiest to find in the States, and comes with the street cred of having earned a bunch of awards too. If you're looking for a Japanese brand, Yokaichi Kome ($22) is a good place to start.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Nicole Perry
bingo987 bingo987 5 years
Unfortunately, this isn't really correct. \u00a0 In vodka, since it's just alcohol and water, the only source of calories is the alcohol. 1.5 fl. oz. of vodka is about 44ml, and at 40% alcohol by volume (ABV), by far the most common proportion for hard liquor of all kinds, that gives us 18 ml of alcohol. Alcohol is 0.79 times the density of water and 7.1 kcal/g, so 18 ml is just over 14 g of alcohol and just a hair over 100 kcal. So the article is good here so far. \u00a0 Shouchu is most almost invariably (at least here in Japan) 20% or 25% ABV. Working it out as above, that gives us either 50 or 62 kcal from alcohol per 1.5 oz serving, about twice what this article claims. There's no way around this: you can't magically add something to a drink to make the same amount of alcohol suddenly have less energy. \u00a0 Worse yet, shochu has impurities in it, which will add to the calorie count. I don't know the details of those, but I wouldn't be surprised if it were at least as much as gin or whiskey, both of which I seem to remember have about 20% more kcal than vodka. \u00a0 So the basic issue here is the amount of alcohol in your drink, and you're actually better off just putting less vodka in your drink than replacing it with shochu.
northcarolinag2 northcarolinag2 6 years
Thank you. :) I was able to find some a few days ago. I mixed some with cucumbers and diet tonic. It was really refreshing.
Michele-Foley Michele-Foley 6 years
@northcarolinag2 Have you tried looking online for it? There's a link to K&L Wines, which ships Haamonii shochu nationally. Bevmo, too.
northcarolinag2 northcarolinag2 6 years
I've been to four liquor stores and haven't been able to find this. I'd really like to try it. :(
mickeyslim mickeyslim 6 years
Shochu is available at BevMo. It's not that hard to find!
nancita nancita 7 years
I enjoy shochu cocktails are bars that don't have a full liquor license, and the lower proof can be a good thing! But I had no idea that it was also lower-cal. More shochu for me!
cotedazur cotedazur 7 years
Sounds interesting - except that a Tom Collins is made with gin, not vodka!! I wonder if this is available in Europe....
Spectra Spectra 7 years
Whoa, that's really cool. I wonder how it compares to vodka in terms of impurities and that sort of thing. I'll have to look for it, but yeah, I've never heard of it before.
wolfjinx25 wolfjinx25 7 years
Hmm...I didn't know that. I've always had Korean Soju (it's illegal in some parts of the US) mixed with juice or grape soda.
tlsgirl tlsgirl 7 years
Cool, I'd never heard of this before.
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