While Japan’s older style of mixology leans toward classic pre-Prohibition-era drinks, a new breed of drink professionals is breaking from tradition and using their country’s premium produce to forge the next chapter in Japanese bartending.
“The current mainstream of Japanese cocktail making is to combine the spirits with fresh ingredients, rather than using liqueur or flavored syrup,” says barman Naofumi Yokoyama of Bar Entrust, the Third Place in Tokyo’s Ginza neighborhood. He offers a concise collection of cocktails built from pristine seasonal fruit, including kumquat, tomato, cucumber, apple, goji berry, kiwi and, in the appropriately named Fresh Strawberry, strawberries. “The method of cocktail making in Japan has changed from just introducing the cocktail culture from overseas and adding a twist to a standard cocktail to making cocktails combining fresh ingredients such as fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices with spirits,” he says.
The Fresh Strawberry, and Bar Entrust’s general concept, is rare in that it doesn’t prescribe a base spirit, instead offering the customer (or bartender, in this case) the choice between gin, vodka, rum or tequila. The sheer distinctions between each spirit is a testament to the drink’s versatility; really, it’s all about the fresh berries, and however you most want to highlight them. Something like gin is going to make a much more floral, light and botanical kind of drink, whereas rum and tequila both bring it into the tropical world. Vodka, and its relatively neutral flavor profile, takes a backseat more than anything, presenting the flavors of the fruit upfront.
Like any drink using seasonal ingredients, the Fresh Strawberry really benefits from being made in the warmer months when strawberries are at their freshest, and you don’t need to rely solely on imports. Still, even with the highest quality of fruit, it can use some enhancements in order to really amplify the strawberry flavors; in this case, it’s with a strawberry liqueur and some cranberry juice. There aren’t too many on the market, and your best bet for quality is to go with Drillaud. This French company make a host of flavored liqueur, strawberry being one of them. As for the cranberry juice, the more natural the better; avoid anything with artificial flavorings or sweeteners or you’ll risk contaminating the pristine nature of the drink.
- 3 fresh strawberries, quartered
- 1 ounce gin, vodka, rum or tequila
- 3/4 ounce strawberry liqueur
- 1/2 ounce cranberry juice
- 1/4 ounce lime juice
- Garnish: strawberry slice
In a shaker, muddle the strawberries to release juice.
Add the remaining ingredients with ice and shake.
Strain into a coupe or Nick & Nora glass.
Garnish with a strawberry slice (optional).