I live in Oklahoma City. We have a large Vietnamese population and several really good Oriental groceries. I looked for mirin in the liquor stores and can't find it. However, there are many brands of mirin on the shelves in the Oriental grocery stores, but they all have salt and sugar. Is this the only mirin there is? Or is there mirin that is drinkable? What is a good brand, or should I go by the highest price?
There is real, brewed mirin but unless OK City or somewhere relatively nearby has a sizeable Japanese population, I don't know if you'll find it; it's not used by other Asian cultures.
For starters, can grocery stores sell drinkable, non-"cooking"-wine and/or liquor there? In New York, you have to go to a liquor store to get it and I've never seen any variety, just the US-produced Takara brand. I can't imagine a connoisseur would be impressed, but it's much better than the more common corn-syrup-MSG conconction. (I've read about but never seen aged mirin.) Last time I bought it, it was around $7-8 for a 750ml bottle. Cheaper than the fake stuff, ironically. Oh, and just as a warning, "drinkable" is relative; even properly brewed mirin is syrupy sweet so you probably won't want to actually drink much of it.
Drinkable? Just buy sake or soju to drink. I have always thought as mirin as just a cooking wine. To add a little sweet to a sauce, marinade or dressing. I buy the cheap stuff or what is on sale. It is an ingredient I use quite a bit but never gave much thought to buy the best of. It is cheap sweet rice wine for cooking, its not fancy just Asian.
Spend more on sake or soju.
I'm in Fort Worth, and I haven't been able to find it here either. I used to buy bottles directly from the sake/mirin place in Sonoma when I lived in CA. And I also could find it on the shelves of the Asian grocers there. Here in TX, and I'm sure it is the same in OK, the liquor laws are so much different.
I'll check to see if I can find anyplace in CA that will ship to TX & OK. I really miss using mirin in cooking and in salad dressing.
Are you looking for something to drink or cook with? My mother is Japanese and she usually buys Kikkoman Aji-Mirin, generally because it's the easiest to find. You can even find it at Safeway in our area. She only uses it for cooking though, it's very sweet and only contains 8% alcohol.
The best type is hon-mirin (lit. true mirin) which only contains the ingredients of water, glutinous rice, koji mold, and alcohol. If you can't find that I would buy whatever has the fewest ingredients. Depending on what type of dish you are using it for, you may not notice a big difference if any. You are definitely not going to drink it no matter what you get - it's at least 40% sugar.
For those of you who can't find anything locally, amazon sells some different types of mirin. Most of them have some sort of seasoning and/or preservative, except for the Eden foods brand. That one is made with brown rice, so I don't know how it compares to a true Japanese mirin.