Sake Cocktails – Worth it?
Last month, I attended a cocktail workshop at the quirky Darlinghurst bar Hinky Dinks.
Déjà Vu Sake Company organised this industry event to show off the possibilities of sake to hospitality professionals. I have to say that Yukino, the woman at the helm of the Déjà Vu Sake, has been putting in an enormous effort to educate both consumers and trade, taking part in many popular foodie events – like March into Merivale and the Taste of Sydney. Get in touch with her to ask about any upcoming events.
The Hinky Dinks workshop was a venture into a new territory for me. In truth, I had avoided drinking sake in cocktails, preferring to enjoy sake on its own. It seemed almost sacrilegious, to disguise the exquisite flavour and aroma nuances of sake with strong-tasting spirits and liqueurs. But I went with an open mind. After all, umeshu and uzushu are a kind of flavoured sake, and can exhibit the refinement of their base liquor. Umeshu made with a daiginjō will taste a whole lot better than the one made with double-distilled shochu.
At first, Yukino introduced the sakes that the mixologists of Hinky Dinks would work with. Among them, there were Houraisen Beshi Tokubetsu Junmai, Tengumai Yamagai Junmai Daiginjō, Amanato Junkara Junmai, Yoshinogawa Yuzushu (sweet, cloudy with yuzu pulp, a cocktail on its own) and Yoshinogawa Gensen Umeshu. Yoshinogawa Umeshu was just insanely delicious. Around the room, there were collective noises of appreciation, as sommeliers and restaurant owners imbibed the sweet, syrupy umeshu, tasting of intensely ripe and tangy ume fruit and almonds. To paraphrase Bill Murray in Lost in Translation, for relaxing times, make it Yoshinogawa Umeshu time.
So, to cocktails. Here’s the most memorable.
Mr Miyagi Meets the Margarita (Yoshinogawa Umeshu)
Who doesn’t love a Margarita? I do. Yuzu fruit, with its heavenly flavour hybrid of limes and mandarins, dare I say beats lemons. The wasabi pea and salt rim added that unexpected and morish flavour twist. To make this cocktail it at home:
45ml Espolon blanco tequila
15ml Yoshinogawa Gensen Umeshu
20ml agave syrup
30ml fresh lime juice
Shake all ingredients & strain into glass. Fill with ice.
Garnish: 1⁄2 wasabi pea salt rim
Sake Mojito (Amanato Junkara Junmai)
Another universal favourite, mojito, was re-invented with a delicious Amanato Junmai. This junmai is very special, with notes of honey in the nose and a great balance of sweetness and acidity. It did something very interesting to the mojito – the cocktail tasted very smooth and barely alcoholic. Very delicious but definitely “light” as remember, sake is just a touch stronger than wine. Personally, I would be asking for a double shot! To make this cocktail at home:
60ml Amanoto Junkara Junmai
Handful fresh mint
30ml fresh lime juice
30ml sugar syrup
1 thin long cucumber sticks (as garnish)
Shake all ingredients except soda and strain into glass.
Fill glass with ice, add garnishes, top with
Garnish: cucumber slice & plump mint sprig.
Sumo in a Sidecar (Tengumai Junmai Daiginjō)
I must admit, at this point I held my breath. A daiginjō going into a cocktail! That’s certainly decadent. Very, very decadent, not unlike using fine champagne in a cocktail. Which does happen! As a side note, Yukino recommended mixing champagne with umeshu for a quick, delicious drink. I have to try that.
So, Sumo in a Sidecar was delicious, the use of sake taking away any spirity harshness that could be present. What I understood at the workshop, is that sake doesn’t overwhelm the cocktail, and lets the drinker taste the additional flavours better. Cocktails didn’t taste alcoholic at all. Whether it is a good or a bad thing, it is up to the individual taste.
45ml Tengumai Junmai Daiginjo
10ml apricot brandy
30ml fresh lemon juice
10ml sugar syrup
2-3 dashes peach bitters
Shake and double strain into glass.
Garnish: citrus rim
So, should you try sake cocktails? Yes, especially if they are as delicious as Hinky Dinks ones. Those guys do know how to mix and shake! Personally, I think they should explore the use of futsushu in cocktails, for more distinct sake flavour and lower cost. Do look out for cocktails using umeshu and yuzushu, as those flavours are heavenly and unusual.