I have been hearing about the Japanese drink shochu. What is it and is it gluten free?
Shochu is a traditional Japanese drink distilled from starches including rice, sweet potato, sugar cane, soba and barley. Since it is a distilled alcohol, it would be gluten free no matter what starch it is made from. Some shochu is infused with flavor so you have to make sure the addition of flavoring does not add any gluten to the alcohol. In general, alcohol flavors do not contain gluten but it is possible a malt flavor made from barley might be used. According to an article in Restaurant News, shochu is about 25 percent alcohol, making it stronger than wine but not as strong as vodka, gin, and rum. With a neutral taste most similar to vodka, it is said to mix well with fruit juices, leading to its popularity in specialty cocktails. In recent years, shochu has passed sake as the drink of choice in Japan and it is being served more often in Japanese restaurants in U.S. cities. It complements grilled meats and fish, tempura, sashimi and noodles.