The Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association (JSS) and New York Japanese Restaurant Association (NYJRA) are pleased to announce that Gov. Kathy Hochul signed New York Assembly bill A.8620/7913 into law on July 1, amending the Beverage Control Act. This amendment will now allow Japanese Shochu (24% ABV or under) to be sold under a beer and wine license. With this critical change, the shochu category can be recognized on its own and be labeled and sold for the first time in New York as Shochu.
Under the previous law, Japanese distillers could only sell their spirit under the misleading label of ‘Soju,’ which is a Korean spirit. Specifically, the new legislation reads:
Such license shall in form and in substance be a license to the person specifically licensed to
sell wine at retail, to be consumed upon the premises. Such license shall also be deemed to include a license to sell beer [and], soju AND SHOCHU at retail to be consumed under the same terms and conditions without the payment of any additional fee. For the purposes of this subdivision[,]:
(B) “SHOCHU” SHALL MEAN AN IMPORTED JAPANESE ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE
THAT CONTAINS NOT MORE THAN TWENTY-FOUR PER CENTUM ALCOHOL, BY
VOLUME, AND IS DERIVED FROM AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS.
NYJRA board member treasurer Chikako Ichihara and legislator and legal advisor John McCarthy commented, “This important moment has been years in the making, and we’d especially like to thank the support of the local government, in particular, the Assembly Member Didi Barrett, the primary sponsor of A.8620, and Senator Anna M. Kaplan, the primary sponsor of S.7913. Their crucial support of this legislation, in addition to the Japanese community, is greatly appreciated.”
One of the best-kept secrets from Japan, their native distilled spirit, shochu, has been taking the U.S. and its bartenders by storm. A highly versatile spirit, shochu is as nuanced as wine, with unique flavor profiles stemming from the terroir and other factors. Traditional pouring styles range from being served straight, on the rocks, or long with tonic or soda. Bartenders are using shochu more often in classic cocktails, particularly the Martini and Negroni. Its typical ABV of 25%-30% is another advantage for bartenders to experiment with flavor and simultaneously present a well-rounded cocktail without overwhelming alcohol content.
The NYJRA will share additional information regarding the law’s implementation as it is available to ensure a seamless rollout and to welcome a greater appreciation of one of Japan’s oldest spirits, Shochu.
Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association (JSS) comments, “We are very excited as we have wanted this for many years. We thank the NYJRA, importers, distributors, the Japanese community, and government agencies for their support. We would like to take this opportunity to let everyone know the joy of shochu in cooperation with our partner.”