Cherry Blossom Cocktail Recipes to Channel the Flavor of Spring

Trees are also in full bloom in Japan, the source of trees celebrated in Washington every year since the mayor of Tokyo gifted them to the Taft administration in 1912. Hanami – the viewing of flowers – is an annual public celebration in Japan, which people have enjoyed for centuries. The Tale of Genji, the 11th-century Japanese text often cited as the first novel in history, refers to a cherry blossom (sakura) festival. Bloom is still celebrated, now with more selfies and a wave of sakura-based treats in Japan, some of them traditional, like teas and mochi, but also pale pink sakura drinks at Starbucks, sakura Coke and sakura Kit Kats. What would a glorious celebration of nature’s rebirth be if global brands didn’t find a place in it?

To be fair, I too want to pick the cherry buds while I can. I can’t see this petal explosion without wanting to incorporate it into drinks, its delicate flavor and aroma, and sometimes just as a nice garnish.

Some bottles can help – Roku and a number of other gins include cherry blossom in their list of botanicals, and there’s a delicious pale pink vermouth from Mancino flavored with sakura extract and Italian violet. Don Ciccio & Figli’s Cerasum, a bittersweet cherry appetizer, features sakura blossoms as well as fruit. (There are also plenty of cherry liqueurs, of course, but that’s a different beast. Cultivars of cherries have been bred to showcase the fruit or flowers. Trees that currently display around the Tidal Basin won’t produce anything tasty later, there’s a reason the National Cherry Blossom Festival isn’t followed by a horrible National Cherry-Stomping bloodbath. are maybe the DC Pigeons, who are officially ready to eat anything. DC Pigeon cannibalizing on an abandoned Popeyes box. This town, amirite?)

For cherry blossom drinks, you can also go directly to the factory. The homemade sake and gin martini from Bar Goto and Bar Goto Niban in New York incorporates a pickled salted cherry blossom, adrift in the drink like a blushing jellyfish.

“A lot of people like to top a martini with an olive because they like a hint of saltiness to finish the drink,” bartender and owner Kenta Goto said in an email. “Salted cherry blossoms, with a delicate floral salinity, replace olives here and pair very well with sake and maraschino.”

Goto recommends selecting a sake and gin that pair well – for example, using a smooth and elegant daiginjo sake with a soft and elegant gin like Plymouth or Portobello, or going in the opposite direction by pairing a more namazake or genshu sake. bold with a traditional dry London Gin. “Both the delicate and bolder versions of this cocktail work – what’s most important is matching your sake and gin and finding harmony in those flavors.”

Momose felt connected to sakura from an early age; she has photos of herself as a toddler with her family viewing the trees in Japan. Growing up there, she says, “the seasons are really important and we definitely celebrate them. Sakura is one of those times when everyone gets out and takes these little walks, either just around their neighborhood or a bit of a drive through the sakura groves, so every spring I’m excited to share a bit of that joy .

His Sakurazuké Martini plays on the sakura mochi popular in Japan at this time of year, a treat of a salted cherry blossom leaf wrapped around a light pink mochi (rice cake) stuffed with koshian, a pastry sweet red beans. Momose cocktail-ify the treat with sake (which replaces rice), Mancino cherry blossom vermouth, a splash of Campari, and a salty cherry blossom solution.

Salted pickled flowers, she says, are a great way to introduce flavors into drinks, “because they’re preserved, you can take them out whenever you want.” And I love the way they unfold and bloom in the glass – I think it’s one of the most striking, amazing but also practical garnishes because you can eat it and actually taste it the flower.

Masahiro Urushido, whose enviable title at his New York bar Katana Kitten is “Director of Delight,” has also incorporated these salty cherry leaves that are wrapped around sakura mochi into a cocktail, creating a Sakura Julep. (Urushido has a DC pop-up until Saturday at Silver Lyan at the Riggs Hotel in Penn Quarter.)

In his book,The Japanese art of cocktails“, Urushido uses the leaves in an oleo saccharum (in which sugar is used to extract the flavors of other botanical ingredients), adding their salty, herbal quality to a peach and ginger accented whiskey drink.” cherry blossom helps you enjoy them out of season, allowing you to enjoy the season at a different time,” he says.

You can get the salty flowers and leaves in some Japanese markets and online. But what about right now, when we are surrounded by trees in full bloom?

As a general rule, trim should be functional and visually appealing. We top a martini with an olive or lemon twist not only because it looks good, but because the drink tastes better with it; fresh mint goes into a julep not just for that glorious green, but because the scent that hits your nose before the drink reaches your lips impacts the flavor.

I usually abide by this rule, but when the world is stuffed with fresh pink flowers, you won’t catch me applying the cocktail catechism. A fresh cherry blossom is gorgeous floating atop a martini, and its aroma is more likely to enhance than harm the drink. And if you want to drop one in a drink where all it’s going to do is sit and look pretty, who am I to judge? As they say, the eyes drink first.

Consider where you’re feeding, though. You won’t make yourself sick by putting a fresh, delicately rinsed flower on the surface of your cocktail. If, on the other hand, you go a step further – pickling your own flowers or infusing the flowers into a spirit, where the alcohol will extract whatever the trees have absorbed – you’ll want to be more careful.

No one wants to end up with a drink that tastes like the exhaust fumes from the tour buses that bring people to admire the cherry trees. Except maybe a DC pigeon.

A lighter martini due to its base of sake (Japanese rice wine) and gin, this is Bar Goto’s house martini in New York. Pair bolder gins with bolder sakes, or lighter, floral gins with lighter sakes. The salty cherry blossom garnish isn’t just for show — its brine adds a trace of the saltiness you get from the olive often used in classic martinis. You will find tweezers a useful tool for handling the delicate filling.

Where to buy: Salted cherry blossoms are available at Japanese specialty stores and online.

1/4 teaspoon maraschino liqueur

A few hours before serving the drink, soak the salted cherry blossom in hot water to remove any excess salt, then transfer it to cold water until you are ready to serve the drink . You can use tweezers to avoid damaging the flower.

About 5 minutes before serving, chill a cocktail glass in the freezer.

Fill a mixing glass with ice. Add sake, gin and maraschino liqueur, and stir to cool and dilute.

Strain the drink into the chilled glass and garnish with the cherry blossom.

Named for the mayor of Tokyo who presented a shipment of cherry blossoms to the Taft administration in 1912, this cocktail uses Mancino cherry blossom vermouth and a touch of citrus yuzu for a bright, delicately floral drink. . A gin such as Roku or Citadelle Jardin d’Ete, both of which include yuzu in their botanicals, is a great option, but any floral or citrus gin will do. A fresh cherry blossom makes a nice garnish but won’t affect the flavor of the drink.

Where to buy: Mancino’s Cherry Blossom Vermouth is available at Lax Wine & Spirits in Beltsville and Batch 13 in the District; it is also available online. Yuzu juice can be found at some Whole Foods and many Asian markets; if you can’t find it, Meyer lemon juice is a good substitute.

1 dash of Peychaud bitters

2 ounces gin (see main note)

1 ounce Mancino Cherry Blossom Vermouth

1 cherry blossom, for garnish (optional)

About 5 minutes before serving the drink, chill a Nick and Nora glass or a small cocktail glass in the freezer.

Fill a mixing glass with ice. Add the bitters, yuzu juice, simple syrup, gin, and vermouth, and stir to dilute and cool. Decorate with a cherry blossom, if desired, and serve.

Recipes from Kenta Goto, bartender at Bar Goto in New York, and Spirits columnist M. Carrie Allan. Recipes tested by Mr. Carrie Allan.

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