Blooming flavors: Celebrating cherry blossom season with shochu cocktails

In recent years, Washington, DC’s vibrant cocktail scene has welcomed a new, yet ancient, player with open arms: shochu. This adaptable Japanese spirit, celebrated for its rich heritage and complex flavors, is establishing its presence among the city’s sophisticated drinkers and mixologists. Renowned for its smoothness and lower alcohol content as compared to other spirits, shochu-based cocktails have become a staple in DC’s premier bars and restaurants, such as Death & Co., Allegory, and Mercy Me.

As the city’s cherished Japanese cherry trees burst into bloom, it presents an opportune moment to delve into the subtle and varied tastes of shochu. Whether you’re an experienced connoisseur or an inquisitive novice, the cherry blossom season is an ideal setting for crafting shochu cocktails at home. So, seize your cocktail shaker and embark on a flavor journey to Japan.

Dragon Fruit-Hai (Created by Natasha Sofia)

  • 2 oz iichiko Silhouette Shochu
  • 0.5 oz Yuzu Juice
  • ½ oz Monin Dragon Fruit Syrup
  • Club Soda

Glassware: Highball

Garnish: Dragonfruit

Method: Mix all ingredients except soda in a mixing glass with ice, give it a quick shake, and strain over a highball glass with ice. Top with soda. Garnish with Dragonfruit.

Shiso Spritz (Created by Radovan Jankovic, Beverage Director of Mercy Me)

  • 1.5 oz iichiko Silhouette 
  • 1.5 oz Sparkling Sake
  • 1.5 oz Fever Tree Club Soda
  • 0.5 oz Aalborg Akvavit
  • 0.5 oz Musk Melon Cordial
  • 0.5 oz Fresh Cucumber Juice
  • 0.5 oz Lime juice
  • 3 dashes of shiso bitters

Glassware: Balloon Glass

Garnish: Shiso leaf

Method: Combine all ingredients in a shaker except for the sparkling sake and club soda. Shake vigorously for 15 seconds and strain into a balloon glass. Then, add the sparkling sake and club soda. To complete the cocktail, add a large cube of ice and garnish with a fresh shiso leaf.

Floral Hai

  • 2 oz iichiko Silhouette
  • 0.5 oz Violet Liqueur
  • Club Soda

Glassware: Rocks Glass

Garnish: Lemon Twist

Method: Build in glass with ice. Give a quick stir and garnish with lemon twist.

Midnight Giant (Created by Death & Co LA)

  • 1.5 oz Kuro-Koji Asahi Mannen Sweet Potato Shochu
  • 0.5 oz Santa Teresa 1796 Solera Rum
  • 1 Tsp Myris Nutmeg Liqueur
  • 0.75 oz Lime Juice
  • 0.5 oz Mamey Puree
  • 0.5 oz Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 0.5 oz Vanilla Syrup
  • 0.5 Dash Saline Solution

Glassware: Pilsner filled with crushed ice

Garnish: Lime wheel, grated nutmeg

Method: Add all ingredients to a shaker tin with ice, shake, strain, then serve.

Troy Petenbrink

Troy, also known as The Gay Traveler, is a well known travel and food writer. His has been a regular contributor to a variety of outlets including National Geographic, Travel Channel, DCRefined, CBS Local, and Metro Weekly. He also appears on local Washington news outlets as a travel expert.

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