It’s the time of the year when the Japanese go nuts for cherry blossom (aka sakura). And as it happens I’ve been going nuts trying to add one or two sake based cocktails to my repertoire. The problem: I know next to nothing about sake. Sure, I’ll enjoy some with a Japanese meal but as to which kind is the best and why: clueless. Still, I did a little experimentation and not a few pretty unpalatable cocktails went swiftly down the drain before I finally came up with something potable. Considering that I was pretty much flying by the seat of my pants I’m quite pleased with this little concoction which I’ve named after a detail from one of my most favouritest novels; Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer (read it to find out why).
Sake, a unique ingredient which is neither wine, beer or spirit but with properties of them all, is tricky to mix with and I found little little success in simply subbing it for other ingredients which is why the formula below looks quite unlike any other cocktail: the usual guidelines just don’t apply to this stubborn “spirit”. Sake has some acidity to it (like wine) which is the reason for the relatively small amount of lemon juice. Of course a cocktail containing lemon juice would normally be shaken but with so little – compared to the other ingredients – and a desire to maintain some clarity we can get away with stirring our Black Sakura. One flavour that I was keen to include was, for reasons most obvious, cherry and luckily the sake and some cherry Heering seemed to get along just fine. Our sweet/sour balance being just about right I turned to the wonderfully woody Fee’s black walnut bitters to round things off. If you don’t have that particular bitters or something similarly woody I would just leave it unbittered rather than overpower the subtlety of the sake with the likes of Angostura. And that’s it – there’s really nothing else to say except “Kanpai!”
2.5oz/75ml sake* (nothing too fancy).
1oz/30ml Heering (a cherry liqueur).
0.5oz/15ml fresh lemon juice.
2-3 dashes Fee’s black walnut bitters.
Stir* with ice and double strain into a chilled champagne coupé or Nick & Nora glass.
Garnish with a cherry or lemon peel. Or both! Or neither!
Toast Ada Palmer for her excellent Terra Ignota novels.
*Given my lack of knowledge of sake I took my normal approach of choosing one in the mid-priced range – in this case the widely available Gekkeikan – and it paid off pretty well.