Kirin’s Jojo Shochu Soda is here, but did the AI know what it was doing?

There are a lot of canned cocktails on the market in Japan, but Kirin thinks there’s room for one more. One October 17 it released Jojo Shochu Soda, a mix of shochu and soda water that it says is specially formulated to pair well with the flavors of traditional Japanese cuisine.

That’s not the only thing that sets Jojo Shochu Soda apart from other canned cocktails, though. That goes-well-with-Japanese-food flavor was developed with the help of AI. Kirin used a taste sensor-replicating AI program called Leo in crafting the flavor of Jojo Shochu Soda, feeding it different ingredient combinations for the beverage which the program then evaluated in terms of how well those mixtures would mesh with flavors prevalent in Japanese dishes.

Confident in the results, Kirin sent us some Jojo Shochu Soda along with packets for making miso-stewed saba (mackerel) and niku jaga, simmered beef, potatoes, and carrots. Before we started cooking, though, our taste-testing Japanese-language reporter, Natsuki Gojo, cracked open the can of Jojo Shochu Soda to see how it tastes on its own.

It was certainly fizzy, but this gave it a nicely refreshing quality. The same can be said about the flavor. Kirin’s AI testing resulted in the addition of rice malt extract and salt to Jojo Shochu Soda, which give the drink a smoothness and clean, crisp finish that you don’t always get from shochu.

But the big question is whether Jojo Shochu Soda really does pair well with Japanese food, so once our chow was ready, it was time for stage two of the test.

Natsuki started with the miso saba. She had high hopes here, since Kirin claims that Leo gave the combination of Jojo Shochu Soda and miso saba its highest compatibility score ever.

Natsuki took a bite, and then a sip, and sure enough, they complement each other extremely well. The crisp Jojo Shochu Soda makes for an excellent palate cleanser after the fragrant sweetness of the miso saba, and also completely smoothed over any traces of unpleasant fishiness that can sometimes pop up with mackerel. She honestly couldn’t imagine a better beverage pairing for miso saba than this, quickly settling into a happy rhythm of a bite of mackerel followed by a sip of shochu.

Next up, the niku jaga.

Once again, this made for an outstanding combination with the Jojo Shochu Soda. The sweet soy flavors of the broth were enhanced by the salty notes of the shochu, but the drink’s clean finish kept the sweetness from becoming overpowering or overstaying its welcome on her taste buds between bites.

For further research, Natsuki then tried the Jojo Shochu Soda with a variety of Japanese-food leftovers she had in her fridge, and all of them tasted great together. Most traditional Japanese dishes will have some combination of soy sauce, miso, sugar, or mirin (cooking sake) among their seasonings, and Jojo Shochu Soda enhanced them all while also bringing them to a nicely contained finish.

Because it’s designed to pair with food, Jojo Shochu Soda might not be the sort of drink you’d slam down can after can of just to get tanked on. Instead, it shines as a dinner accompaniment with a kick (and at six percent alcohol, it’s a decently strong kick). So while we’re still not sure if AI can sell drinks, at least in this case it’s done a good job in helping to make one.

Reference: PR Times
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