Weather greatly impacts my mood, especially here in Tokyo. And I know I talk about weather a lot. Mostly in the past two months, anyway. It fascinates me how much different the course of a year can feel when it isn’t what I’m used to. This is the third fall/winter that I have spent here in Tokyo and there is just no way to describe it aside from frustratingly unsettling. I’m not saying that there aren’t things I don’t appreciate- the warm, sunshine-filled afternoons, the seemingly endless autumn full of brightly colored leaves, and the beautiful Japanese New Year decorations that appear in stores around this time. There is just nothing like it. But it doesn’t mean it doesn’t feel strange to this Minnesota-girl.
Today it stormed with a vengeance in Tokyo. The sky was an odd shade of green, the rain poured heavily throughout the night and into the morning, and thunder boomed along with my shrieking alarm clock. As a result, I decided the bicycle would be a bad idea. Instead, I attempted to walk to school. Fortunately, I was passed by some co-workers who were willing to give me a ride (whew!) which was a great relief on such a gloomy Friday morning. This afternoon, I was able to walk home while listening to some of my favorite music, all the while drinking in the glory of Friday afternoon. The official beginning of the weekend.
I notice a lot of things when I walk rather than cycle everywhere. It helps me remember to soak everything in. Today was no exception. As some of you may know, the Japanese are very tidy when it comes to leaves and other natural yet unsightly clutter outdoors. There are always men and women outside sweeping up piles of dead and dried leaves with tiny dust pans and brooms. With the storms this morning, this job was too big for even the most diligent leaf-sweeper. The sidewalks and streets were covered in a blanket of bright yellow leaves all day. On my walk home, this hit me because I realized I could smell the leaves. That dry, earthy scent that signifies the end of one season and the beginning of another is something I rarely experience here. The leaves hardly have time to find a cozy spot on the concrete before being swept up and tossed into a plastic garbage bag. That was my discovery today.
Last weekend, I discovered something else: the easiest and most festive cocktail that is versatile and gorgeous! Long story short, cranberry juice + champagne/prosecco + pretty much anything = perfection. Bubbly, tasty, holiday-party-worthy perfection. I love the beautiful color and earthy addition of herbs to the cocktail. Citrus is a perfect addition as well. But the most festive is version with ginger simple syrup and a cinnamon stick (perfect stir stick!) for the holidays.
Here were the 5 variations I came up with. I’d love to hear your ideas in your comments!
1. Cranberry-Yuzu Sparkler
2. Cranberry-Rosemary Sparkler
3. Cranberry-Thyme Sparkler
4. Cranberry-Lemon Sparkler
5. Cranberry-Ginger & Cinnamon Sparkler
If you’re hosting a holiday gathering this season, consider putting this on the menu as a quick, gorgeous way to toast to the season. Cheers!
Combine equal parts cranberry juice and prosecco or champagne.
Pour into tall shot glasses or champagne flutes. Add desired flavorings (about 1/2 teaspoon simple syrups (recipes below) and 1 tablespoon citrus juice per drink) and serve garnished with 1 or 2 cranberries (they float beautifully on top of the bubbly!) and other ingredients included in the cocktail. See photos for ideas.
Rosemary Simple Syrup
Makes about 1/3 cup
1/3 cup honey/sugar
1/3 cup water
1 sprig of rosemary, leaves roughly chopped
Combine the water, sugar/honey and rosemary in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer. Simmer until the liquid thickens and reduces slightly. Remove from the heat. Strain the simple syrup to remove the rosemary leaves (this is optional based on your preference- if you don’t mind the leaves, go ahead and leave them).
Lemon-Thyme Simple Syrup
2 teaspoons lemon-thyme, chopped
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar/honey
Combine the water, sugar and thyme in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer. Simmer until the liquid thickens and reduces slightly. Remove from the heat. Strain the simple syrup to remove the thyme leaves (this is optional based on your preference- if you don’t mind the leaves, go ahead and leave them).
Ginger Simple Syrup
Makes 1/3 cup
3 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
Peel the ginger and grate using a microplane. In a small, heavy saucepan, add the sugar, water and ginger over medium high heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Allow the syrup to reach a steady simmer, stirring constantly. When the syrup begins to reduce, cook for 1 minute more (use your best judgement- if it seems done, it probably is). The mixture should resemble the consistency of maple syrup.