In the 33rd episode of the Japan Distilled podcast, your host Stephen Lyman has a conversation with Joshin Atone of The SG Shochu. The conversation ranges from NY cocktail culture to Shanghai speakeasies to Joshin serving his first drink at the age of four. The meandering conversation is full of great info for everyone from the shochu curious novice to the professional bartender.
Mixing and Editing: Rich Pav (https://www.uncannyjapan.com/)
STEPHEN LYMAN discovered Japan’s indigenous spirits at an izakaya in New York City. He was so enthralled that he now lives in Japan and works in a tiny craft shochu distillery every autumn. His first book, The Complete Guide to Japanese Drinks, was nominated for a 2020 James Beard Award.
Stephen has been friends with Joshin for about a decade. They first met when Joshin started working at SakaMai where Stephen guest bar-tended.
If you have any comments or questions about Joshin or the SG Group, please reach out to Stephen or Christopher via Twitter. We would love to hear from you.
Who is Joshin Atone?
Joshin Atone was born in California to a Japanese father and American mother. He visited Fukuoka in Kyushu every year visiting family and was pouring shochu for his uncle before he was in elementary school. After university, he cut his teeth in hospitality at SakaMai in the Lower East Side before going to work at Angel’s Share, the iconic Japanese style cocktail bar in Manhattan’s East Village, which sadly recently closed its doors.
From there he joined the SG Group, led by world class bartender Shingo Gokan in Shanghai to be part of the opening team of Sober Company, Gokan’s 2nd bar in that city. From there Joshin moved to Tokyo where he helped the SG Group open several more bars before being tasked with developing The SG Shochu, a line of 3 shochu expressions meant for cocktails.
The SG Shochu
As with many Japanese bartenders, shochu is not the first spirit Shingo Gokan thought of when considering new cocktail ingredients. However, as has often been the case in his illustrious career, he realized that Japan’s native spirit deserved a place in his arsenal. Unhappy with the options available overseas, he decided to lead the development of his own private line of shochu. And so The SG Shochu was born.
This line from 3 of the more well known shochu makers in Japan represent Kuma Shochu (rice shochu from Kumamoto), Satsuma Shochu (sweet potato shochu from Kagoshima), and Mugi Shochu (100% barley shochu from Oita). All 3 are bottled at 40% to stand up in cocktails.
Where to Find Joshin
Joshin recently left the employment of The SG Group, but he still works closely with them on design projects and other branding activities. He’s now available for freelance if you are interested in working with him on your own project. You can reach him at flow (dot) brand design (all one word) at gmail (dot) com. He is not active on social media currently, but he does have an instagram account, flowbeatgroove.