Tokyo’s bartenders are legendary for their fastidious attention to detail and ability to reinvent the cocktail wheel. You’ll find creative approaches like distilling vodka from foie gras or cutting an ice cube into an 18-sided diamond in less than a minute. So when Sosharo opened in London’s Clerkenwell earlier this year, bar manager Geoff Robinson worked to recreate that sense of mindfulness in the bar program. “What we do is really attempt to emulate that aesthetic sensibility in a tangible way through the way we make drinks,” he says.
The principles of wabi-sabi, which can loosely be interpreted to mean “an acceptance of imperfection,” are used to divide the drink menu at Seven Tales, the downstairs bar. The perspective incorporates seven ways to change your daily aesthetics, each of which is turned into a drink.
Drinks include the Shizen (or “Without Pretense”), made downstairs with banana liqueur, Aperol, yuzu, freshly squeezed grapefruit juice and sparkling wine; and the Yugen (or “Subtly Profound Grace”), served upstairs with a blend of Belsazar rosé vermouth, Sakura nigori sake and sparkling wine. These cocktails are lighter and whenever possible incorporate “some of the constituent flavors used in the kitchen or that are iconic to Japanese food,” says Robinson.
In creating his bar menu, Robinson has tried to create drinks that respect and emulate Japanese traditions. The Turnmills Rice Wine cocktail is at heart a Martini, according to Robinson. Made with rice-washed Beefeater gin, Cocchi Americano and sesame, it “takes inspiration from very old methods of sake brewing,” says Robinson. Rice used to be milled in a barrel, which is a method reminiscent of cooking pasta as you save the water in which it was boiled to add the starch back “into your sauce to create a velvety texture.”
It should come as no surprise that Robinson’s favorite Martinis have a creamy texture “that demand a viscous, oily alcoholic gin. ... In this case, however, we use the starchiness of the rice to create that textural richness,” he says.
Another innovation of his is the Girls on Bikes cocktail, which is bright pink and made with Beefeater gin, Kuncho nigori sake, rhubarb shrub, kasu (sake lees), grapefruit juice and cream. The quaff was inspired by summer rhubarb in combination with his respect for the summer style of a Ramos Gin Fizz.
Again it’s the texture that attracted him to the Ramos Fizz, as well as the fact that it “manages to be refreshing and decadent at the same.” To achieve that, he uses fat-protein ratio similar to that in the Ramos Fizz, keeping the cream and substituting kasu for egg whites.
The resulting drink has a slightly sour, slightly yeasty, doughlike flavor from the pressed and fermented rice. A slightly lactic unfiltered sake, gin, cream and a rhubarb shrub are then blended in to recreate the richness of a Ramos “but with a bit more fruity richness.” The final drink is named after his favorite thing about summer.