Sake Basic 101: Japanese Sake vs. Shochu

Sake Basic 101

The Difference Between Japanese Sake and Shochu

We are often asked by customers what the difference is between Sake and Shochu.
It’s true that they seem very similar. However, there are some differences.

1) The methods of production are different

Sake is a fermented beverage and Shochu is a distilled fermented beverage.
Therefore, the classifications of these beverages are totally different.
So what does that mean?

Fermented beverages

Fermented beverages are made from fruits and grains, and then fermented by yeast.
Wine, Beer, and Sake all fall under under this category.

Distilled fermented beverages

Distilled fermented beverages are produced through the distillation of fermented alcoholic beverages such as wine and sake. Distilled liquor is made by boiling brewed liquid containing alcohol and collecting the alcohol as it evaporates. The evaporated alcohol has a higher alcohol content.

2) The alcohol content is different

The alcohol content of sake is generally 15% while the alcohol content of Shochu is generally 20% to 25%.

Fermented beverages

Since fermented beverages are produced only by yeast fermentation, when yeast activity stops, no more alcohol will be produced. Fermentation usually stops at around 15% alcohol content, so the alcohol level doesn’t increase any further.

Distilled fermented beverages

Pure, distilled, fermented beverages have an alcohol content ranging from 40% to as high as 90%. Therefore, for commercial use, water is added in order to adjust the alcohol content down to between 25% to 60%. For Shochu, the alcohol content is generally adjusted to 20% to 25%.


The major differences between Sake and Shochu are as follows:

  1. The production methods are different
    • Sake = fermented beverage
    • Shochu = distilled liquor
  2. The alcohol content is generally higher in Shochu
    • The alcohol content of Sake is generally 15%
    • The alcohol content of Shochu is generally 20% to 25%