Baijiu and shochu are often confused as the same spirit. While they are similar in many ways, one of the best ways to learn the difference is to taste them firsthand right here in Portland.
Lucky for us, Vinn Distillery in Southeast produces baijiu (pronounced, “bye-joe”), and it’s available for your sampling in the distillery’s tasting room. Baijiu is usually made from varying amounts of sorghum, wheat, rice, sticky rice, and/or corn in China. Shochu is consumed and produced in Japan, and made from similar ingredients. Both baijiu and shochu are spirits, not saké. The ingredients and production are different: spirits are distilled and saké is brewed.
Experience baijiu and shochu in Inner SE Portland
First head to Vinn Distillery (222 SE 8th Avenue) for a taste of straight baijiu. Next, try it in cocktail form in the baijiu-based bloody mary or a seasonal cocktail made with Pok Pok Som drinking vinegar.
Next head to Biwa (215 SE 9th Avenue), a Japanese izakaya located just blocks away for Shiranami or Kurokame shochu. Remember the taste of both straight up. Located in Biwa’s old location is the restaurant’s sister bar Parasol Bar (215 SE 9th Avenue). Don’t miss this spot for a shochu cocktail experience. The must-try here is the “Microaggressions” cocktail made with shochu, sherry, and apricot.
You’ll be hungry by now and probably in need of some drinking snacks, and another taste of baijiu. For this, you must go to Danwei Canting (803 SE Stark Street). Decide between jiaozi (dumplings), noodles, meat and vegetable dishes with rice, and other specialities like xianbing (Beijing stuffed pastry with minced beef, ginger and scallions,) but don’t forget to order one of four cocktails featuring Vinn’s baijiu.