For sake enthusiasts looking for a unique gift idea for that special someone on Valentine’s Day, why not try creating a sake cocktail? At a hands-on workshop at Japan Society, Sake Samurai Chris Johnson taught participants how to make four tantalizing Valentine’s Day-themed cocktails whose main ingredient is sake.
Using the tools of the trade, participants felt like real-life mixologists pouring the ingredients into jiggers, muddling with muddlers, and shaking the shakers. I learned two things: 1. Although I prefer to drink sake straight, I thoroughly enjoyed three out of the four cocktails. 2. I’m a really bad bartender. But that’s part of the fun!
Here are Johnson’s recipes for the concoctions he created. For each cocktail, put the ingredients in the shaker, add ice, shake, then strain into a glass.
- 2 oz Yoshinogawa Gensen Karakuchi
Notes: Classic, extra-dry style from Niigata Prefecture, lush mountain water, earth and mossy tones with subtle fruits
- 0.75 oz lemon juice (about one lemon)
- 1.5 oz Rooibos Tea Cordial
To make 2 quarts, put together 5 bags of rooibos tea, 1 bag of hibiscus tea, 2.5 quarts of water, 1.25 quarts of sugar, 1 vanilla pod, 1 orange peel. Bring to a boil and let cool
Secret Garden is a refreshing cocktail, but it was a little on the sweet side, which masked the flavor of the sake. Johnson, who is the sake sommelier and consultant for Cherry Restaurant, encouraged us to experiment with different types of teas to capture the flavors we love.
Cherry Love Bomb
- 3 oz Dewzakura OKA sake
Notes: Light and refreshing, with a delightful, flowery bouquet and a touch of pear and melon on the palate
- 0.5 oz lemon juice (about half of one lemon)
- 0.5 oz Black Pepper Syrup
- 1 teaspoon Bonne Maman Cherry Preserves
- Garnish with a pickled cherry
Cherry Love Bomb was my favorite cocktail of the evening. The black pepper syrup, which Johnson prepared before the workshop, was the key for me.
- 1.5 oz Sakemoto
Notes: Upfront fruit in the nose, a rich texture, and a long, smooth finish that will appeal to both new and seasoned sake drinkers
- Muddle 1 strawberry
- 0.5 oz guava juice or nectar
- 0.25 oz lime juice (quarter of one lime)
- Top with Prosecco (approximately 0.75 oz)
- Garnish with a strawberry
My favorite part about making this drink was muddling the strawberry. The Prosecco added effervescence, and the heart-shaped strawberry garnish is just adorable.
- 1.5 oz French dark roast coffee
- 1.5 oz Yoshinogawa Gensen Karakuchi
- Top with foam: In a whip creamer, put 3 0z Murai Nigori, 5 oz coconut milk, 2 tablespoons powdered sugar, and 1 egg white
Murai Nigori Notes: Smooth and creamy with confectionary aromas, sweet milky notes of coconut, pineapple, and vanilla
- Sift chipotle mocha dust (mix of chipotle and unsweetened cocoa powders) on top of foam
This is my least favorite. I don’t drink coffee, so that makes sense. The Murai Nigori foam was delicious, though.
Regardless of your bartending skills, you can shake up this Valentine’s Day with Chris Johnson’s sake cocktails. Make some this weekend and tag @JapanCultureNYC when you post to Instagram or Twitter so that I can see your creations! Happy Valentine’s Day!