With the opening of our bottle shop, I have been exploring the world of sake. Daiginjos, Junmais, Yamahais, Namas, I'm trying them all. While tasting all of the different sakes, there is one particular trait I'm always looking for: would this be good in a cocktail? Tis a very important question.
Through all the sakes I've tasted so far, the line of Nama Genshu can sakes by Kikusui has been the best contenders to use for cocktails.
We carry three varieties in the Kikusui can series: the yellow can is a Nama Genshu; the green is a Nama Genshu Honjozo; and the red is a Nama Genshu Ginjo. Nama Genshu is an unpasteurized, undiluted sake so it tends to be high in alcohol; these are a whopping 19% ABV! So it is certainly a sake that you can actually taste alongside other ingredients -- which is the biggest challenge when making cocktails with sake. You want to actually be able to TASTE the sake, right?
Inspired by Yoko's drink at Bar EST!, the Gin Rickey, I decided to try making this famous cocktail with one of the Kikusui cans. I brought all three home and taste-tested them with Johnny. We unanimously decided that the red can, the Nama Genshu Ginjo, was the best of the three for this Rickey. The green can was way too grassy (even creamy!?!) and the yellow can tasted too clean and did not impart any personality. The red can is smooth yet funky and the earthy sake notes really come through. Plus it gave the cocktail an overall roundness.
2-3oz Kikusui Nama Genshu Ginjo (red can)
Squeeze of half a lime or a tart lemon
You can do this the original, lazy way which is just to put all the ingredients in the glass and enjoy. My kind of drink! But for the sake of this Happy Hour demonstration, I fancied it up using some bar tools.
1. Squeeze a half of a lemon:
Rickeys are usually always made with a half of a lime. But I had these beautiful lemons from Johnny's mom's garden so I used them instead. Besides, limes are expensive still.
2. Strain juice of lemon into a shaker:
Totally superfluous! But I was just imagining what Mr. Watanabe of Bar Est! would have done.
3. Add the sake into the shaker and shake with ice. Strain into a glass with ice ball. Top off with soda:
Last shot with peony!
I wouldn't use just any sakes for this drink -- you'll want the sake to be a little funky, fruity with 15% ABV or higher. Look out for the Genshus (undiluted sakes), and start there. And watch out, these sakes will give you a good buzz!
By the way, according to Wiki, the term "Rickey" of Gin Rickey was created in the late 1800s as a joke referring to the jinrukusha (rickshaw) introduced to America from Japan. Excellent cocktail trivia!