Summer evenings stretch long and languorous. As the blue sky fades dusty and pink, songbirds chatter, cicadas whir, frogs chirp, and crickets chant. The air is balmy, On nights like these, summer begs us to sip something sultry. With so many herbs to muddle and flowers to garnish with, summer cocktails are the most delightful medley of fresh flavors. I do love the sexy, smoky, and stealthily intoxicating cocktails of winter but their summer counterparts are a lot more fun. They are flirty and full of pizazz. From leaves of shiso to sansho, from liqueurs of ume to azami, from infusions of sencha to sugi, summer offers the mixologist an abundance of ingredients to play with.
All who join me in Mirukashi go home with a bundle of goodies that includes a jar of yukari. Yukari is a fruity, herbaceous salt made of red shiso that has been soaking alongside pickled ume. It takes on all of the plums’ fragrance and brine’s salt. Once dried in the sun, it’s ground up into an aubergine salt that tastes fantastic on all kinds of things, but works particularly well in a cocktail, clinging to the rim or sprinkled over a foamy cap. There is a certain ceremony to sipping a cocktail served with a salty rim or adorned with an herbaceous garnish. It signals a time to relax, a time to slow way down. The light lingers still and dinner can wait. Now is the time to converse and connect.
I have always loved the complex and surprising flavor combinations of cocktails. And they offer one of the most exciting and enjoyable ways to dialogue between Japanese and Western customs and flavors. These days I often enjoy my cocktails with a zero proof spirit alternative. I can mix variations, drink a bit more, and still rise alert and energetic the next morning. I suppose mixology is full of science and precision, but for me it really is a chance to play, to experiment, to draw on intuition, trust my own tastebuds, and test flavor combinations. And when I find a good one, I refine it until it’s ready to add it to the growing roster of seasonal cocktails woven into the fabric of salon sessions. Join us and I’ll shake, stir, and slip one over to you as we open an enchanted evening.