07/31/2007

The Reigning Heavyweight Champ

Yes, in this Great Nation there is truly only one adult beverage that stands out over all, one drink that is universally loved, one drink that has a devotion unmatched by its rivals- that sauce?



Shochu



To describe its delights would take too much space. To count its varieties would require heavy research. To properly give credit to its gifts would demand a much greater writer.



A brief description- a clear alcohol distilled from quite a lot of sources.



One of the many delights of Shochu is its variety-

There is Imo (potato) a rather strong smelling brew that is delicious and satisfying but for some reason is mostly imbibed by the senior set, traditional Japanese are said to be somewhat off put by the aroma of Imo although I find it quite pleasant.



There is Mugi (barley) a much friendlier tasting and looking choice. Very popular with young and old alike and most delicious not to mention satisfying.



And there are the more rare distillations



Soba (buckwheat) a clean, fresh and tasty version.

Shiso (plum leaf) a truly unique and lovely choice. Wonderful scent and a big hit with the ladies.

Goma (sesame) not so popular but gaining slowly.



And I am probably missing a few.



The Champ is enormously popular both Summer (omizuwari- with ice and water) and Winter (urewari- hot water) and molds itself perfectly to the modern Japanese lifestyle.

It is fresh, fun, affordable, convenient, delicious and satisfying.

As a very popular side note most Japanese will claim that drinking
Shochu is basically risk free-meaning it leaves no hangover, clearly
benefiting the hectic J-work schedule- and after long hours of research I
can attest to the fact that this is・・・mostly true.



Even heroic intakes of the Shochu of your choice will leave one with
quite a mild morning・perhaps a bit of a headache but certainly nothing
unmanageable and quite a pleasant change from other Adult Spirits.



So when in Rome・・・・・.



SHOCHU



And



KANPEI!

posted by Billy at 15:11 | Food (contain ALCOHOL!)

07/22/2007

Sake And The Heavyweight Champ

Sake

And

The Heavyweight Champ



First let's discuss what many foreigners may believe is the Original and National Drink of Japan- Sake!

I would need a few thousand words to even outline the choices you have when picking Sake over here as the variety is truly mind boggling. Suffice to say this, whenever I ask my sake drinking J-friends for a good recommendation they, pause, roll their eyes and laugh then usually say something along the lines of, “There's soooo many!・/FONT>

Historically Sake has a long, rich, wonderful tradition that remains in place today and it is still a popular choice when dining out (especially during the cold winter months when Hot Sake is a real treat) but somewhat sadly, like many older traditions, Sake is slowly losing its grip as the drink of choice. The taste of most sake's is slightly strong and not so
subtle and many foreigners- and younger Japanese- simply do not prefer it. Although, as a side note, I must mention that many younger and older J-Girls firmly believe that Sake gives you clear flawless skin and who am I to argue? So Ladies, pay heed if you are concerned about your complexion, Sake may be what the Doctor ordered.

Also, unfortunately, when taken in large quantities Sake carries with it a wicked, whiskey-like morning hangover which perhaps most of the younger generation do not find conducive to their busy lifestyles and work schedules.

Having said that I will add that the cheaper brands are still for sale in most vending machines although you may find the only people buying these are close to retirement age. God bless 'em.

But while in Kyoto if you are feeling beverage adventurous please try-



GEKKEIKAN

Or

SHOCHIKUBAI

Two local brands that I have been assured (Thanks Yurikochan!) will satisfy both your palate and your wallet.

And please remember, when out drinking you can always and easily order Hot Sake simply by asking for same (pronounced- Hoo toe sah Ke) and will undoubtedly be brought and served a fine house selection. Kampei!



Finally, we arrive at my (and most of the Nation's) current favorite, sublime elixir and reigning Heavyweight Champion of Japan- LADIES AND GENTLEMEN PUT YOUR HANDS TOGETHER FOR THE ONE AND ONLY, THE KING OF ROCK-N-ROLL, JAPANS OWN ORIGINAL SOUL BROTHER # 1-



SHOCHU!



Oops, sorry・otta run.

Until next time・・・・
posted by Billy at 14:44 | Food (contain ALCOHOL!)

07/11/2007

Wine, whiskey・・.no songs

Last time I discussed one of my more intimate subjects- Beer- and today we move into the wine area.

Now let me be clear, I am no connoisseur and indeed do not even drink wine unless forced to do so at gunpoint, or more likely here in Japan, knifepoint. But the info I get is straight from the most dedicated Nihon wine guzzlers I know so fear not.

First, the bad news- Wine has only very recently become a popular drink here, maybe the last 2 or 3 decades, and the Japanese only produce a very small amount of Native vintage, mostly Whites, so your choices may be limited to what Imports are available and/or affordable. And unfortunately both availability and affordability will be a problem when compared to your own country's variety of selections/prices.

The good news in Kyoto- The Wine Grocery, located on Shijo just west of Horikawa (known otherwise as Shijo Omiya), a very quaint wine shop that offers a wide selection at a very wide range of prices suiting any or no budget. The staff are all serious wine lovers who are knowledgeable, friendly and most likely speak both English and French. Give it a shot if you want to enjoy a good bottle with your special someone.

And no, I don't work for or get paid by them. I'm just hip because I attended a couple of wine tasting events there that were fun, fun, FUN!
Sorry, the events have since been discontinued- maybe everyone was having a little too much fun- but the shop is still happening. OK・OK・ so sometimes I drink a little wine. Sue me.



Now on to a much more familiar subject- Whiskey!



The Japanese and Whiskey seem, to me, to have a strange relationship. While whiskey is certainly imbibed here, and at great quantities, especially but not exclusively by salarymen in nightclubs after work or when entertaining clients, their idea of Good Whiskey appears to vary greatly from my own. During these after work excursions the Natives tend to not be
very particular about the quality of the whiskey (which is most populalarly served omizuwari- with water) and onsequently quality does not seem to be a prerequisite for enjoyment. Bourbon also appears to be the favored whiskey choice for most J-drinkers and since I cannot abide by the stuff I may be a
prejudiced judge.

But to illustrate the force of the principle let me point out that in many, many drinking establishments here Jack Daniels (shudders) may be the Top Shelf option in Bourbon. Suffice to say that if that is the top, the bottom is not worth entioning.

Now onto the Good News- Native whiskeys are quite respectable and well worth choosing. Suntory makes a fine Special Reserve which, while slightly pricey, is well worth it- the taste is mellow, clean but full- and will satisfy. I've found Hokuto also very decent and most enjoyable, as well as affordable, either neat or on the rocks. The more reasonably priced
Japanese whiskeys (Tory, Nikko) are・well・..cheap and you might do best to avoid these brands unless you don't care what you're drinking.



And now the very Good News!



Walk into most well stocked liquor shops here and you will most likely find a veritable bonanza of FINE Whiskey at dirt cheap prices. Yes, because of Whiskey's relative lack of popularity here you can easily purchase the best of any Single Malt Irish (my personal fave) at prices that will rival or beat the best you could find at home. I've found and continue to find Jamesons (Irish chicken soup), Bushmills (aged 10 or 16 yrs. and Black Bush, mmmmmmmm.) and most of the finer Scotches at bargains that make me feel like I'm stealing.

If you're a Whiskey drinking man you will DEFINITELY be satisfied and then some so sit back, sip slowly and ENJOY!



Next up- Sake and the Current Heavyweight Champ!
posted by Billy at 17:01 | Food (contain ALCOHOL!)

06/28/2007

#4- June Blog from Billy (NOT billys boot camp)

Today I'm choosing a subject that is near and dear to most Nihon-jin (and yours truly as well) and should be of the utmost importance to any visitors to this Great Nation-

Drinking!

Yes, visitors might want to prepare for the fact that almost all social/family/after-work events revolve around the liberal intake of spirits and joyous celebration of same. For young, middle and old aged alike the primary mode of relaxation and release is knocking 'em back one after another with your family, friends or significant others. Consequently,
invitations to go drinking are almost a social obligation and anyone foolish enough to turn down such an invitation may find themselves out in the cold, socially speaking. Prime your elbow muscles and prepare for marathon sessions because in Japan it is considered an attractive feature to be what
is known as,
"A Strong Drinker".

And so here is a brief rundown on J-land Booze-

First up, of course and just in time for Summer, is Beer. J-beer is both a true blessing and, somewhat disappointingly, something of a curse. I hail from the U.S.A. and the range of quality of the suds over there is truly staggering. Back home I was fond of top quality brew (Hacker-Schoor, Paulaner) which is reasonably priced Stateside. Not only is it difficult if
not downright impossible to find high-end importeds here, if you can I guarantee that the outrageous price will destroy any real desire you may have had for same. Well, when in Rome...........
And so it's generally best to stick to the Domestic and here's some good news. There is almost nowhere you can travel in Japan where you won't find it available (indeed it's sold in machines on most streets and even some train stations), it's very affordable and the taste is Damn Good. Not great but damn good.
The top of the line is probably Yebisu and at 300yen for 500ml is about twice the price of the cheapest brand (maybe Draft One) but there's more good news! For while the best quality brew is perhaps only- Damn Good- the absolute worst quality is, well- Pretty Damn Good!

Yes, while Suds connoisseurs may be slightly taken aback by the relative lack of choices, the other 97% of us will be pleasantly pleased with the solid if unspectacular quality of ALL J-Brew.
Good to the last drop, affordable and readily available for your pleasure.
Trust me- someone's doing something right over here.

My Kyoto Secret...............ssssshhhhhhhhhh.

The Asahi Beer Garden Restaurant just South of the Kawaramachi/Sanjo intersection. They brew their own beer on the premises and the House Nama Beeru(draft beer) is OUT OF THIS WORLD! Fresh, hearty, robust and clean it truly has to be tasted to be believed. The food is delicious- although
quite strangely the menu consists of German fare, sausage, bacon, potatoes and sauerkraut- and the atmosphere friendly. Unfortunately there is no actual Beer Garden so to speak but if you drop in I know you will not be disappointed.

Even the Germans might approve.

Next time- Sake, wine, whiskey and The Heavyweight Champion!
posted by Billy at 17:53 | Food (contain ALCOHOL!)

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