James Key Lim and his wife, Joanne Woo Lim, are the makers of Haamonii Ultra-premium Shochu, and they're all about sharing. The Lims began to pour their shochu, a distilled clear spirit, for others first--quite literally. They started hosting complimentary tastings of Haamonii at restaurants in San Francisco, where the couple live. Now Haamoni tastings have come to LA, and will head to New York this fall. If you missed the recent tasting at Café Pinot, you can enjoy a complimentary quaff of the shochu, mixed in a Haamonii Yuzu Collins or a Haamonii Ume Kisu, at Gonpachi tomorrow evening in Beverly Hills, from 6 - 7 p.m.
Shochu probably came to Japan by way of Korea (where it's called "soju"), who got it from the Mongols somewhere around the 1300's, who in turn, learned it from the Persians (In many parts of the Middle East, a similar distilled spirit is called "arak"). And before that, we probably owe distillation to Arabic alchemists. To whom our debt is great. (If you want to really delve into this intoxicating history, read Anthony Dias Blue's The Complete Book of Spirits: A Guide to Their History, Production, and Enjoyment. James Beard award-winning writer Dias Blue awards Haamonii 91 points.)
Haamonii (which means "harmony" in Japanese) was conceived as a "global shochu"--one that can be enjoyed as much by people new to it as those accustomed to it. Though it isn't very well known yet outside Asia, shochu is the close second to vodka as the world's fastest-growing-in-popularity spirit. Lim noted that traditional shochu sometimes had harsh flavors that didn't appeal to his friends, and set out to create a smoother, purer spirit. It's billed as the "world's smoothest Shochu," and according to Lim, there's a reason for that. Haamonii is crafted in small batches, quadruple-distilled and triple filtered. The actual recipe is a secret, but Lim will say that it's grain-based. (Shochu can be, and is, made in Japan with any number of things, including sweet potatoes, rice, shiso, even sugarcane) Shochu is also unique in its alcohol content, which is higher than that of wine, but lower than that of vodka.
"Asian culture has always celebrated community and sharing and companionship," says Lim. And central to this is tradition that dictates one should should always pour for others and never pour for oneself--another person, adhering to tradition, will return the favor and pour for you--thus ensuring one never drinks alone. Harmonious, indeed.
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