Eating + Drinking

What to Drink During the Japanese Whiskey Shortage

These other Japanese spirits should get you through the hard times. Kanpai!

Photo courtesy of Bar Moga

Bad news for the dram fans out there: We’re having a bit of a whiskey shortage. Japan’s distilling industry has enjoyed soaring international sales, but supplies haven’t caught up with the exceedingly high demand. While you hunker down with your prized bottle of Suntory and wait for these rough seas to pass—unfortunately in about a decade’s time—consider turning to these spirited alternatives. Or just pour yourself two fingers of something Irish…oh, wait

Sip Craft Sake, Distilled Right in Industry City

New York has a taproom catered to every kind of drink snob, but there shockingly wasn’t one for craft sake until Brooklyn Kura opened its doors just a few months ago. Cofounders Brandon Doughan and Brian Polen’s aim is to make the centuries-old drink more accessible for a New Age audience, with simple ingredients and brewing methods. Behind their industrial-sleek bar are five drafts dedicated to the Japanese rice wine with your drink preferences in mind; the sake spectrum ranges from crisp bubbly to full-bodied. I’d recommend sampling their two Nama (unpasteurized aka raw) sakes—the potent Shiboritate fresh from the press and an active rice mash fermentation known as moromi—if you’re feeling a little adventurous. 68 34th Street, Sunset Park

Learn All About Japanese Spirits at This Hands-On Class in a Bar

If only my college econ class was held in a bar, I might have gone into finance instead of writing. I’ll settle for this expert walk-through of the many other spirits—beyond whiskey—from the Land of the Rising Sun. Recently launched at 1920s-style cocktail haunt Bar Moga, Coco’s Spirit is a casual weekly educational series showcasing bottles and varietals your taste buds rarely encounter. (Last month’s feature was Iichiko, the “best spirit you’ve (probably) never tasted.”) Leading you through your journey is Japanese beverage expert–slash–certified shochu adviser Kayoko “Coco” Seo, who previously trained under the prestigious bartender Shingo Gokan during his tenure at Angel’s Share. Get acquainted with the self-proclaimed moga—an early-1900s Japanese term translating to “modern woman”—and your newly discovered spirit over a few rounds and complimentary veggie chips at the bar. 128 West Houston Street (between Sullivan and Thompson Streets), Greenwich Village

Soak Up Your Japanese Beer With Sake-Baked Challah

Why has no one thought of this brilliant pairing before?! The Jewish-Japanese gem Shalom Japan has co-owners Aaron Israel and Sawako Okochi embracing their respective roots through and through, from a deceptively simple challah bread baked with fermented sake to a beer list highlighting some unexpected swigs from Japan’s most ambitious breweries. Stout drinkers will flock toward the well-roasted notes in Hitachino Nest Beer’s Espresso Stout, brewed by Kiuchi Brewery; lager lovers can drink to Japan’s first microbrewery with a crisp can of Koshihikari Echigo’s rice lager; while Nippon Craft Beer Co. represents with two types of strong pale ale ideal for hazy summer drinking. Pick your poison to pair with teriyaki-glazed duck wings or a bowl of matzoh ball ramen—the latter is free at the bar with a drink purchase after 10 p.m.—and you have the perfect setup for late-night shenanigans in Brooklyn. 310 South 4th Street, Williamsburg

Matzo Ball Ramen at Shalom Japan

Savor “Cloudy Sake” in an Underground Record Bar

What better environment to explore roughly filtered sake than Tokyo Record Bar, the jewel box–size tasting room underneath Air’s Champagne Parlor? You already know we’re huge fans of its free-form DJ sessions and izakaya dinners, but its excellent selection of nigori—quite literally translating to “cloudy sake”—is even more under the radar than its subterranean location. Creamier, sweeter, and occasionally thicker than its clear counterparts, the unrefined sipper doubles as a lovely complement to the playful late-night snack menu. Pair off the most introductory nigori of the bunch (Rihaku Shuzo’s Dreamy Clouds with honey yogurt notes) with a bowl of togarashi popcorn and some Stevie Wonder deep cuts on vinyl. 127 MacDougal Street (between West 3rd and 4th Streets), Greenwich Village

Interior at Tokyo Record Bar, one of NYC's trendy restaurants in September
Photo by Noah Fecks/courtesy of Tokyo Record Bar