The 2020 Summer Olympics, postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, will finally take place in Tokyo, kicking off July 23, 2021. It will be the second time Japan will host the Games, at which more than 11,000 athletes from a total of 206 countries and states will participate. And what better way to celebrate the occasion than with some themed cocktails?
While you can always opt for the classic summer favorites like the Gin & Tonic or Margarita, these are a few cocktails created in or inspired by the Games’ host country to transport your taste buds to Tokyo, even if you can’t be there in person, plus a twist on an iconic American treat.
Shigefumi Kabashima, the owner and beverage director of ROKC in New York City, takes the classic egg white sour template (spirit, citrus, sweetener and egg white) and builds a drink dominated by Japanese flavors. He uses a Japanese whisky as the base, yuzu juice for acidity and freshness, and kuromitsu as the sweetener. (Kuromitsu is a molasseslike syrup derived from kokutō, a mineral-rich unrefined sugar; if you can’t find any, honey or molasses will suffice.) It’s first dry-shaken, then again with ice before being strained up into a coupe glass and garnished with an array of aromatic bitters. It’s silky, balanced and crushable.
The highball, prolific in Japan, is a style of cocktail that typically comprises just a spirit and a lengthener such as soda. The word Mizuwari translates to “cut with water,” which refers to the common practice of enjoying whisky by adding sparkling water to it, opening up the spirit’s more subtle flavor characteristics. This cocktail requires just two ingredients: a premium Japanese whisky, such as Nikka Coffey Malt, Suntory Toki or Mars Iwai 45, and sparkling water. The key lies in the details for making this highball a spectacular one. The quality and clarity of the ice used and the temperature of the glass are vital, and the technique used to craft it must be impeccable. Follow each step carefully, and it will yield a highball so crisp and delightful it will be the closest thing to enjoying it at one of Tokyo’s finest cocktail bars.
Many fruits were absent from Japan’s cocktail bars in the early 2000s due to the high price of these imported ingredients, but that has begun to change in recent years, with bars beginning to incorporate in-season fruits such as berries and melons, and even grapes, as seen in this drink from Bar Orchard in Tokyo. Tequila gets blended with sauvignon blanc, a citrus juice blend, muscat grapes and crushed ice, then poured into a vessel lined with coriander and mint leaves and topped with additional crushed ice. To finish it off, the drink is then topped with a salt foam, which neatly ties in the bubble bath concept if you happen to have a miniature bathtub to drink it from (and if you do, hats off to you) but is optional if you’re sipping from a rocks glass at home.
Its name provides a hint to what this mixed drink is all about. It’s just a step away from its more well-known cousin, the Long Island Iced Tea. Not a drink for the faint of heart (or liver), it calls for gin, rum, tequila, vodka, triple sec, melon liqueur (think Midori), sweet-and-sour mix and club soda. Tread carefully with this one, and remember, there’s no gold medal for quantity of consumption.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
If you love a good snow cone in the summertime, this is for you. Gaijin, a Japanese restaurant in Chicago, developed this boozy take on the classic Japanese shaved ice dessert called kakigori. This confection is built over shaved ice with a mix of an herbaceous gin, pandan syrup, sweetened condensed coconut milk and lychee liqueur. While its flavor leans toward the sweeter end of the spectrum, it’s a certain crowd-pleaser if you’re willing to undertake the fairly involved process of making it.
Red, White & Booze Popsicles
The beautiful thing about events such as the Olympics is that an entire nation unites to support the athletes who have trained so hard to compete on these world stages. So we’d be remiss to exclude something patriotic for Americans who wish to celebrate their country and its extraordinary athletes. These popsicles, like an adult version of the childhood-favorite Firecrackers or Bomb Pops, are essentially a layered frozen cocktail that requires three separate components, each fashioned after a popular cocktail: Cherry Bomb, Piña Colada and Blue Hawaii. Assemble them properly and cheer on the red, white and blue of the USA.
In Japan, the winter solstice is known as tōji. To celebrate this shortest day of the year, also the peak harvest time for yuzu fruit, some indulge in yuzu-infused baths and eat propitious foods such as red beans and lotus root. This cocktail is an homage to these Japanese traditions and their flavors. It combines a base of Nigori sake with herbaceous Benedictine, tart and grassy yuzu marmalade, bright yuzu and lemon juices, the nutty depth of adzuki red beans, and egg white, resulting in a vibrant and complex cocktail.