Well, after a long week and a lot of cooking (which I was thrilled to do) I have finally found a little time to write this week’s Cocktail Friday post. I just got home (it is 12:30am in Tokyo) from a wonderful night of food, conversation, and Karaoke with great friends. My body is wasted but my mind is racing with thoughts. Such is my life here in Japan; so many things to think about and to do.
It has been a strange thing living in this country for many reasons. One of which is that I constantly feel in a state of amazement. I am stunned at the number of people that can fit in one train car. My transportation habits have transformed from mainly driving my own car to riding a bicycle. And perhaps the biggest change, aside from being away from my family, is the sheer joy I take in cooking food and sharing it with all of you. I am constantly reminded of the great gift this blog has been to me. So, to all of you dear readers, I wish to extend warm thanks. I would also like to thank my husband, who has been endlessly supportive of the time and energy I put into this blog. He has shown endless patience with my constant cooking, typing, and photographing. I am blessed.
Ok, moving on to Cocktail Friday…
Last spring, I had the wonderful experience of having one of my very best friends, Jenn, visit our Tokyo home. She has been my good friend since 8th grade and I am so thankful for that. When Jenn came to Japan, we planned a trip to Kyoto. On our first night there, we visited a random Chinese Izakaya (strange, I know…) The experience was unique in every way. We were served traditional Chinese fare (stir fried Chinese broccoli, dumplings, etc) and were even given a gift the end of the night. We each received a can of…wait for it…white gourd juice.
Yep. White gourd juice. What does one do with white gourd juice? I have been pondering this question for months and months. The can has been sitting on a shelf, collecting dust and taking up valuable real estate in our apartment. That is, until last Monday when I had a ‘light bulb’ moment. I decided it would be the perfect ingredient for Cocktail Friday!
So began my experimentation process. I tasted the juice timidly and found that it had a nutty, almost brown sugar-like flavor. It was strong tasting and reminded me a little bit of roasted butternut squash with its slight sweetness. I tried a few different methods of using the white gourd juice in a cocktail and only one seemed to really work. I made a simple syrup with star anise, cinnamon and allspice. Combined with some brandy and vodka, the cocktail had a pleasing aroma and comforting flavor. I think this could easily be served warm as well as cold and would be a perfect way to fulfill your hot toddy cravings!
While this cocktail was delicious, I knew many people would not be able to find white gourd juice. Except Jenn, who still has her can from Kyoto! So, I included a second cocktail for this post. The ingredients are not from a Chinese Izakaya in Kyoto and are much easier to come by.
Cardamom, lime and gin come together to create an amazingly delicious cocktail. Whole cardamom pods are simmered with the simple syrup, releasing the subtle citrus flavor that sometimes reminds me of Starburst candy (sorry, but it does!)
With a little tangy lime juice and a pine scented gin, the flavors are balanced perfectly. I hope you’ll try this unique cocktail.
I’d love for you to share in your comments what you are drinking this weekend!
Makes 1 cocktail
2 oz. white gourd juice
1 oz. brandy
1 oz vodka
1 tablespoon spiced simple syrup (recipe follows)
Combine the gourd juice, simple syrup, brandy and vodka in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until you just can’t shake anymore! Pour into a cocktail glass, garnish with a cinnamon stick and star anise. Serve!
Spiced simple syrup
makes one cup
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
1 star anise pod
3 allspice cloves
Combine the ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Simmer for 15 minutes. Pour into a small bowl and allow to cool. Will keep for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
Makes 1 martini
2 oz. gin
1 oz. vermouth
juice of 1/2 a lime
Cardamom simple syrup (recipe follows)
Combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake!! Pour into a martini glass, garnish with a lime wedge and cardamom pods and serve!
Cardamom Simple Syrup
makes about 1 cup
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
8 cardamom pods
Simmer ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat for 15 minutes. Pour into a bowl to cool. Will keep for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.