Cheers March 2015

Cheers is dedicated to delivering hospitality professionals the information, insights and data necessary to drive their beverage business by covering trends and innovations in operations, merchandising, service and training.

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Page 38 of 59 39 March 2015 • By Jack Robertiello he cocktail renaissance of recent years has inspired bartenders to scour the planet for palate-surprising ingredients to include in their concoctions. Many lately have turned their attentions to spirits from Asia. Sake, of course, has long been established in the U.S. primarily through the popularity of Japanese restaurants and sushi bars. But the fermented rice beverage has become more important as a cocktail ingredient in recent years. Korean soju is another spirit now emerging from strictly ethnic settings, as is Japanese shochu. Even baiju, the funky and earthy Chinese spirit, has started appearing on drink menus in the U.S. Here's a look at some of the unique spirits from Asia and how some operators in the U.S. are using them. SUPER SAKE COCKTAILS Sake is brewed from fermented rice in a process similar to making beer. Grades of sake vary by how polished the rice is—the more polished the kernel, the fi ner the sake. Daiginjo, ginjo, honjozo, junmai and nigori are popular types of sake. Bartenders have long admired the attributes of sake— lightness of body, refreshing fl avors and crispness. "Sake adds a nice creamy texture to the cocktails we use it in," says Constantin Alexander, bar manager of Hakkasan Las Vegas. "For this reason, we have to make sure to use [sakes from] high-quality producers with the right fl avor intensities in our cocktail program." Sake sits front and center in Hakkasan's signature Saketini cocktail, which mixes Masumi Okuden Kanzukuri junmai sake, cucumber vodka, gin, lime and cucumber slices. "It helps bring together all of the unique aromas and tastes that make the drink," Alexander says. The Hakka—made with vodka, Masumi Okuden Kanzukuri junmai sake, coconut, lime, passion fruit and lychee juices—is the restaurant's most popular drink. Another is its Plum Sour, made with Hakushu 12-year old whisky, umeshu (a sweet- March 2015 • March 2015 • March 2015 • 39 March 2015 • March 2015 • 39 and-sour plum liqueur), lemon juice, Angostura bitters and egg white. Umeshu is good for adding fruit qualities to a drink without unbalancing the fl avors, Alexander says. Umi, an Atlanta sushi destination, lists a selection of craft and seasonal sakes, including fruit-fl avored varieties; prices range from $22 to $400 per bottle. "The fruit sakes we carry are all naturally fl avored with fruit purée instead of artifi cial fl avors, so at least if you choose that route you know what you're drinking," says Umi barman Gabe Bowen, who oversees the list. Adventurous diners are helping to spur interest in the brewed-rice beverage. Guests have become much more open to new food and beverage experiences in the past fi ve to ten years, Bowen says. "They understand [sake] is an appropriate pairing with our food." It can take some education and hand selling, however, considering many customers in the U.S. have been exposed to lower-grade sake that's served too warm, or sake that's sold past its prime. Some guests might have had a bad experience with a lower-quality sake before, Bowen notes. "Once you let them try something of a good quality, it's almost night and day. It's simple, like our food, but can still bring a complexity that is incomparable to anything else." Appreciation of sake has spread through casual izakaya ( Japanese-style pub) restaurants, nightclubs and even chains. P.F. Chang's, for instance, offers a Yuzu Ginger Mojito made with two types of sake. The Asian Bistro chain carries four sake varieties on its menu. Upscale operators with an eye to healthier eating and drinking are including sake as a gluten-free alternative. Steakhouse chain Smith & Wollensky currently carries a Low Cal Mojito made with coconut sake on its cocktail menu. And last summer, Renaissance Hotels featured 14 cocktails made with TY KU sake. The drinks were created by Francesco Yusho restaurant in the Monte Carlo Hotel in Las Vegas carries a selection of sake and shochu. A warmed sake served up at Yusho.

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