11 Best LA Bars To Find Japanese Shochu

There's nothing better than heading to LA's Little Tokyo or Koreatown with your friends for delicious sushi or Korean barbecue. Walking into the restaurant, sitting down at the bar, and watching as the chefs quickly slice and dice the fish or bulgogi (beef) can be just as much fun as eating the meal itself. But let's be honest, no meal is complete without a drink, especially if that drink naturally goes with the food being consumed. Sake (which is different from rice wine) may be the obvious choice for sushi, but there's another Japanese liquor that's worth a sip or two: shochu.

Even though shochu has only recently started showing up in and around Los Angeles, the liquor has been a staple in Japan for 500 years. A low-ABV liquor, shochu typically runs around 40 to 45 proof. Unlike the more common sake, which is made from rice, shochu can be made from a variety of ingredients including barley, sweet potato, and yes, even rice. And just like other liquors, the flavor depends on the ingredients and methods used in making it.

Similar to sake, shochu is typically enjoyed straight, hot, or on the rocks. Although that's the classic way to sip the liquor, several bars in and around Los Angeles are not only serving shochu in its classic form, they're using the low-ABV liquor to create new and interesting cocktails as well. Below are the ones that have added the Japanese liquor to the bar list with positive results.

Death & Company

Located right between Little Tokyo and the Arts District in Downtown Los Angeles, sits Death & Company, the well-known bar with locations in New York City, Washington D.C., and Denver as well as a very popular cocktail book. The bar has made quite a name for itself in the 17 years it's been open having received numerous accolades including Best American Cocktail Bar and World's Best Cocktail Menu. Death & Company has even been at the forefront of the cocktail renaissance and has created some of those popular new classics you'll find at bars all over the States. So, it's no surprise that the bar has added shochu to its list of liquors.

"Big fans" of the liquor, the bartenders use it frequently. Sure, you can absolutely enjoy it straight up, with some water, or on the rocks, but since Death & Company is known for its cocktails, why not try the ones on the menu? The Vigo Rising, for example, mixes Mizu Lemongrass Shochu with blended scotch, cantaloupe, lemon juice, and egg whites. If you're not a fan of scotch though, don't fret, Matthew Belanger, the bar manager at LA's Death & Company, promises a few more shochu cocktails will debut when its spring menu comes out later this month.


A neighborhood hot spot located where Echo Park, Downtown LA, and Filipinotown meet, Thunderbolt is one of those places that will entice anyone who enters. It doesn't matter if you're in the mood for a quick drink or a nice meal with friends. While its menu has a definite Southern bent thanks to the pimento cheese poppers, Kennebec fries, and buttermilk biscuits, the cocktail menu covers the gamut of drink options. Sure, there are the bourbon and rye tipples for those who want the complete Southern experience, but Thunderbolt also has plenty of gin and rum options as well. There is even a separate Madeira menu. But in the middle of all the rum, tequila, and vodka sits a quiet, little low-ABV cocktail. A cocktail that's stunning to look at (check out the photo above) and delicious to taste. A cocktail whose base spirit is Japanese shochu.

Unlike some of the other bars on this list, Thunderbolt only has Iichiko Saiten behind the bar. A barley shochu, Iichiko is wonderful on its own or on the rocks, as it is full of umami flavors with notes of jasmine tea and peaches. Those umami notes blend wonderfully in head bartender, Tom G. Liu's Fu Gwaa Falsetto. Combining the Iichiko with Oaxacan rum, bittermelon, Manzanilla, Aveze, and Li Hing, you get a showstopping drink that fits in well with the restaurant's eclectic menu.

Wolf & Crane

If you're looking for Japanese whisky, look no further than Wolf & Crane. Right in the middle of downtown Los Angeles, this neighborhood bar was created by Michael Francesconi and Matthew Glaser as a place where downtown residents could gather to relax while enjoying a drink. And if you want that drink to be Japanese whisky even better. But whiskey isn't the only liquor behind this bar there's also plenty of shochu available, as well.

While Wolf & Crane no longer has specific shochu cocktails on its menu, fans of the Japanese liquor can come in and order the barley or sweet potato shochu whenever they please. They can even get them mixed into a drink. As a matter of fact, the bartenders look forward to going off-book and creating fun and interesting drinks with the two different shochu. So, if you're looking for a creative shochu beverage, give Wolf & Crane a visit, as we were told the drinks they create "are quite delicious."


A stunning restaurant right in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, Redbird is the perfect place to visit for a festive meal or a romantic evening. It has everything from weekend brunches to high-end dinners, all featuring modern American cuisine that focuses on the multicultural influences of chef Neal Fraser's home city of LA. So, it makes perfect sense that Redbird would also make sure to store a few bottles of shochu behind the bar.

As with any restaurant and bar in Los Angeles, you can order any liquor you like straight or on the rocks and Redbird is no different. But bar director, Tobin Shea loves to create new and interesting cocktails that aren't on the menu. He actually created two shochu cocktails for a shochu popup that took place back in January. But just because those two drinks are no longer on the menu, doesn't mean you still can't enjoy them. Shea would be happy to mix those same cocktails up for anyone who asks. He'd even be happy to create something totally new and unique.

Bar Bohemien

When we think of food courts, we think of counters bunched together in the middle of a stuffy mall. Citizen Public Market in Culver City is the exact opposite. Located inside the historical landmark that was once the Citizen Publishing Company, Citizen Market is the antithesis of the food courts with which we grew up. Each restaurant has its own shop with its own flair. There's even a bar upstairs with a beautiful view of oldtown Culver City, serving everything from chicken wings to raw oysters; it's a bar called Bar Bohemien.

In this little slice of paradise, patrons can sip cocktails with names like the Stocking Dropper and Not Your Mama's Iced Tea. Cocktails layered with liquors both hard and soft. But if stronger cocktails comprised of gin and vodka aren't your style, Bar Bohemien has lower ABV choices as well. Choices that start this month will include the light and crisp shochu.


Housed inside an old firehouse in downtown's Arts District, Kodo is a sleek and modern restaurant made up of steel and stone. Its modern yet classic interior matches the artistic dishes created by executive chef, Yoya Takahashi. With everything from grilled spareribs to sashimi and sushi, Takahashi has created a menu that's as stunning to look at as it is to taste. And because artistry on the plate should match artistry in the glass, Takahashi has placed his trust in Chris Gomez and Will Henry, the two artists behind some of Kodo's most popular cocktails.

Gomez and Henry have worked hard to create a beverage menu that compliments the food. No matter what you're eating, there's a drink for it. There's plenty of sake of course, but there's also some shochu which is served on its own or mixed into a drink. The Green Leaf Shochu Highball is a bubbly tipple made with sweet potato shochu, Ikkoman, pandan syrup, lime, and soda. This Highball's tropical notes match well with the funkiness of the sweet potato shochu.

But if you're not in the mood for bubbles and funk, then try Kodo's other shochu cocktail, the Thoroughbred Tea. This drink is significantly stronger as it uses Aokage 41 as its base spirit. A barley shochu that's 41% ABV, the Aokage 41 adds smoky notes to the green tea and yuzu liqueur creating a drink that's sophisticated and pairs perfectly with several of Kodo's sashimi options.


If you're looking for a high-end experience, look no further than the Michelin-starred Shibumi. Located in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, this intimate, upscale Japanese restaurant invites patrons to enjoy one of four different meals. Each starts with sushi and, depending on which meal you choose and how much you want to spend, could culminate with a stunning cut of Wagyu and a delicious mochi dessert.

According to Shibumi's menu, "Sen No Riku founded the philosophy that full satiation arrives when one eats raw, steamed, grilled, boiled, and fried in a meal." Chef David Schlosser fulfills this philosophy with each course and meal that he creates. While the meals are set, the one thing he leaves up to his patrons is what they imbibe over the course of each feast. There are several cocktails made with Japanese whiskys as well as a few using a variety of shochu. But if you want to keep your experience totally pure, a bottle of sake or glass of shochu might be the better choice.

Shibumi's shochu list is extensive and includes every option available from barley to buckwheat and rice to sweet potato. Unsure which one will best accompany your supper? Schlosser and his staff can and will make recommendations that will best complement the meal, making for a complete and memorable experience.


If you prefer jeans and T-shirts to black ties and cocktail dresses, check out Tsubaki in Echo Park. Opened in 2017 by Charles Namba and Courtney Kaplan, the restaurant is meant to be an Izakaya which is a Japanese tavern specifically designed for casual meals shared with friends and family. With a menu that includes grilled prawns, fried rice, and tempura, each and every dish is meant to be enjoyed with a glass of sake, beer, wine, or shochu. And since Namba and Kaplan want their patrons to drink with their food, Kaplan has created a menu that focuses on local craft sakes and shochus you'll only find at Tsubaki.

There's usually anywhere from 10 to 15 shochus on Tsubaki's menu at any given time. And occasionally Kaplan will even create cocktails with them. "We do offer cocktails seasonally," says Kaplan, "none at this particular moment, but in the past have offered variations on classic chu-hai cocktails using seasonal farmers market fruit. We've also done spritzes and sours with shochu as well, and are planning to bring back some for spring."


Right next door to Tsubaki is Ototo. Japanese for "little brother," Ototo is a sake and shochu bar with a significantly larger list of Japanese spirits. Even though Charles Namba and Courtney Kaplan have created a small food menu for the bar, Kaplan says that Ototo is "more beverage-oriented." Where Tsubaki is the sophisticated sit-down restaurant, Ototo is the rowdier hangout patrons pop into when they want to grab a quick drink before a Dodgers game or for a Friday happy hour. The menu tells you everything you need to know about this watering hole: only two pages are devoted to bar bites like the Chicken Katsu Sando and Taru Taru Steak while the rest of the 13-page menu centers on sake, beer, wine, and shochu.

Yes, a large portion of the menu is devoted to rice-based sake, but the final page of this menu has an ever-changing list of shochus and even breaks them down by their base ingredient. And since both Namba and Kaplan are eager to educate their patrons in the art of sake and shochu, all you need to do is ask and Kaplan will be more than happy to espouse her knowledge of the liquors at no extra charge. She may even steer you toward a funky shochu you never would have considered before stepping inside the barroom.

Niku X

Located in the tallest building in Los Angeles, Niku X is another in the long line of Japanese fine dining experiences. As a matter of fact, with its two tasting menus starting at $245 per person (there is also an a la carte menu), and robot waiters, Niku X is a restaurant that should be added to everyone's bucket list. Putting a new spin on the classic Japanese technique of grilling meats, Niku X is a protein-oriented restaurant full of Wagyu cuts and bluefin tuna. Executive Chef Shin Thompson's goal is to take those Wagyu cuts and present them in new and interesting ways while continuing the tradition of yakiniku, a classic Japanese technique utilized to grill meats.

A high-end meal deserves a high-end cocktail, and Niku X has them. Even though the drinks aren't nearly as expensive as the meals, they do offer unique flavors to complement the unique creations on the plate. Japanese sakes, whiskeys, and shochu line the cocktail menu and each one is used to create an exceptional experience. The La Shiruko uses Nankai shochu, a vacuum-distilled black sugar shochu from Japan's Amami Island. Made up of 80% black sugar and 20% rice, Nankai has a clean taste that lends itself to creative cocktails.


Created by Keizo Ishiba, K-Zo is a Culver City restaurant that takes sushi to new heights. Classically trained in Japanese and French cuisine, Ishiba turns nigiri and sashimi into works of art that are stunning to behold. A large menu that includes all the classics one looks for when they enter a sushi bar, Ishiba also has cucumber salads, chicken wings, and spare ribs if you're in the mood for something a little heartier. But sushi is the real star here and the reason you should head to K-Zo.

What makes K-Zo different from your standard sushi bars though, is the variety of liquor he has behind the bar. Of course, there's a large sake menu that rotates monthly and there's plenty of Japanese beer as well. But it's the cocktails that put this restaurant ahead of other sushi bars in the area. Each drink uses either sake or shochu as its base spirit, making for an interesting trip. For example, his dirty martini uses barley shochu and Japanese red plum pickles while the Cosmo substitutes shochu for the classic vodka.