A New Era for Shochu
If we’re talking about Shingo Gokan’s twenty-year bartending career with enough awards to lose count, we can safely say that he has been around the block, so to speak.
However even within such an extensive career, Shingo’s encounters with shochu behind the bar has been quite few and far between. As a Japanese national, guests understandably ask him for “something Japanese” when asking for a cocktail. However, it turns it this is not a very easy order to satisfy.
Besides the standard fare of yuzu, shiso, and wasabi, it turns out expressing Japanese-ness in a glass is not so easy, even in Japan. While Japanese whisky, gin, and sake have each claimed their respective positions in the cocktail vernacular, shochu (Japan’s national spirit) was somehow nowhere to be found. How can Japanese-ness be expressed in a cocktail when Japanese distilled spirits are excluded from the menu?
It turns out there are a few reasons that this is the case. First, shochu is usually sold as a during-dinner spirit, and distillers typically bottle their products at 25% ABV. making it a bit awkward for bartenders to work it into their recipes. Second, the flavor profile of the spirit tends to cater towards savory, and few products on the market work well with fruits typically found in cocktails. And last but not least, most labels are written entirely in Japanese, making it difficult for the international bartender community to access.
While this was vaguely on Shingo’s mind throughout his career at Angel’s Share in NYC, the issue became urgent upon his return to Japan, and he decided to take action.
Authentic & Single Distilled
Shingo returned to Japan in 2018 to open The SG Club, the first of SG Group’s bars outside of Shanghai, China. Soon following its successful opening, he began talking with some of the most prominent names in the Japanese shochu industry to collaborate on a new brand of the spirit—something that retains its authenticity while catering to the cocktail market.
This became the inception for The SG Shochu, a first-of-its-kind collaboration of three giants in the shochu industry including Takahashi Shuzo, Satsuma Shuzo, and Sanwa Shurui. With the aim to catapult shochu into the global cocktail scheme, The SG Shochu began its journey.