If we were in Japan right now, Yoko and I would shut down Umami Mart for a week and spend our days hanami-ing – picnicking under sakura (cherry blossom) trees with bentos and sake with friends, joyful that spring is here while blossoms flutter all around. Just look at the 花見 (hanami) hashtag on Instagram – it's a short spurt of time that comes and goes in a flash, and all you can do is get out and enjoy it.
Back in Oakland, we have plenty to be joyful about. Magnolia and plum trees are in full bloom and spring flowers are popping up at every turn. Not to mention that we've just started selling shochu and spirits – a life-long Umami Mart goal, that completes our mission to bring Japan-made drinks and drinkware to the States.
I wanted to create a cocktail that fused the sensations of spring in Japan, with American sensibilities. Kokuto shochu is a spirit made with brown sugar from Amami Island, in southern Japan. In order not the compete with rum production from the Caribbean and South America, Kokuto shochu is a designated spirit, and the only beverage that can be made from sugar cane in Japan. In fact, the sugar cane must be grown on Amami Island.
The first rum drink I wanted to emulate was the Daiquiri – made with just three simple ingredients: rum, sugar, and lime juice. But I wanted to incorporate a Salt Preserved Sakura Blossom, an ingredient that is used in Japan for teas and baked goods, and the cocktail needed more than just the three ingredients to balance the tart blossom flavors. So I went with a Hemingway Daiquiri, a riff on the original Daiquiri, with added grapefruit and maraschino cherry liqueur, which is apparently how Ernest enjoyed it. Plus I figured that it doesn't get much more American than Hemingway.
I really liked Jougo the first time I tried it, it has a rich, sweet nose and tropical flavor profiles, like pineapples and papaya. I present to you a Sakura Daikiri (in Japan, you pronounce Daiquiri, "däi-kiri").
1. Soak sakura blossom in water, just a couple minutes is fine. The sakura is extremely intense out of the bag. After experimenting a few times, it definitely just needs to mellow out and you want the salt to come off.
3. Put plenty of ice into the shaker.
4. Shake vigorously for 10-15 seconds.
5. Strain into a Coupe glass.
6. Watch the salted sakura dance around the glass.
7. If you have any fresh cherry or plum blossoms for garnish, it is a nice touch! But really, the cocktail is so gorgeous, no garnish is necessary.
This cocktail is well-balanced and refreshing. The preserved sakura is tart and brings a savory dimension to the drink, highlighted further by the distinct notes of the marascino cherry liqueur.
This is hanami in a glass. Kanpai!