My alcohol tolerance has taken an absolute nosedive since I came to Asia. The prevalence of bland rice lagers coupled with the fact that we’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time in Muslim countries (which have crazy-high taxes on alcohol) has meant we haven’t really been doing much drinking. Cue the violins.
After our lager-tour of Vietnam, we had a bit of a reprieve in the booze department when we arrived in Japan. Was it expensive there? Yes. Was I sick with a cold most of the time? Yes. Did we still manage to make some cocktails? Yes, indeed.
We arrived in Tokyo in late March, just as the cherry blossoms (sakura) hit full bloom. The whole country goes a bit sakura crazy. There are special sakura wagashi (little sweets meant to be eaten in traditional matcha tea ceremonies),cherry blossom onigiri, sakura mochi, sakura rice crackers, special sakura sparkling sake, and even sakura doughnuts at Krispy Kreme (no, I did not sample them. They were super pink and I don’t like doughnuts. Sue me).
We also kept seeing these bags of pink cherry blossoms in department store basements and markets. After the fifth time I picked up and put down a package, Steve finally forced me to spend the $3 and buy a package in the Kyoto Nishiki Market.
A little googling told me that I’d need to soak these salt-preseved blossoms before using them any way I wanted. And I wanted a cocktail.
This cocktail is unashamedly pink, girly, and sweet. Way sweeter that I normally go for, but I’m a dry cocktail-lover, and hell, it was springtime in Japan. Had I had any access to bitters, I would have added them, and have suggested as such here. The cherry blossoms provide a surprising amount of cherry flavor and aroma to the drink, even using only a few of them.
+ three or four preserved cherry blossoms
+ water for soaking
+ umeshu (the cuter the bottle, the better. See below)
+ club soda
+ cherry bitters
Soak your cherry blossoms in ample water for maybe 5 minutes or so. They are crazy salty.
Pour two parts umeshu into a glass. Add a few dashes of bitters if you’ve got them.
Plop in your cherry blossoms, and top with chilled club soda to taste.
Ideally, eat with some sakura mochi.
What else to do with the cherry blossoms? Like I said, they are crazy salty. I had a thought to maybe grind them with a mortar and pestle and make a pretty interesting salt rim for a margarita (maybe with a dash of sour cherry juice?) They can als be used in cooking and baking — see these posts for more ideas. The cherry blossoms can also be rinsed and then soaked in hot water for a cherry blossom tea.
They are also just fun to look at. Right, Steve?