Japanese Spirits That Bring Cherry Blossom Season to Life – Choice of Sake, Shochu and Whiskey to Try

Japan is known for its spectacular springtime sprinkling of cherry blossoms. The Sakura flower itself is a symbol you’ll see splashed on just about everything in Japan. From textiles to ceramics. It even adorns many trade names. For two weeks each spring, the unofficial national flower makes Japan’s parks, public spaces and sakura-lined boulevards blush with pink blossoms. It’s also a chance to indulge in Japanese spirits like sake, shochu, and whiskey.

These flowers also provide drinking power. When the short two-week blooming season ends, they call it Snow Sakura, as the tiny flowers cover the ground and blow pink petals in the breeze.

This year, Japan’s peak Sakura season started in the southernmost island around March 30. It is slowly sweeping north week by week and is expected to reach the island of Hokkaido, which has Japan’s coldest climate, by April 30, according to Live Japan. cherry blossom forecast.

Of course, Washington DC has some of the most impressive cherry blossoms outside of Japan. Its springtime profusion has been appreciated since Tokyo Mayor Yukio Ozaki gifted over 3,000 cherry trees to the US capital in 1912. As a result, the National Cherry Blossom Festival is held for four weeks each spring. This year, it ends this Sunday, April 17.

DC is awash in pink blossoms each spring thanks to a donation of 3,000 sakura trees in 1912. (Courtesy of Visit Washington DC._

That means it’s time for a traditional toast with sake, shochu, and whiskey. This is your guide to some Japanese spirits worth trying.

Cherry blossoms and sake time

The world of sake is old and vast. Distilled from fermented rice, it has a distinct flavor – clean, earthy and rice-like, yet smooth without the tannins associated with wine. It can be served hot or cold and is either refined and clear or raw and cloudy. The options are as vast as your palate.

PaperCity asked Kevin Martinez, the longtime executive chef of Fort Worth’s Tokyo Cafe, which sake on his restaurant’s menu is his favorite.

“Tozai Snow Maiden, which tastes like slightly sweet honeydew, is one of my favorite sakes we have in Tokyo,” says Martinez. “For the fact that it’s super bright and pairs well with seafood and delicate flavors.”

Another premium sake you might want to explore is TYKU Junmai sake made from just four natural ingredients: premium non-GMO rice, pure fresh water, yeast, and homemade koji. the hand. TYKU is made from highly polished specialty Akebono sake rice so that only 70% of the grain remains. This process removes impurities and refines the taste.

Fresh and unctuous with subtle notes of pear, this sake leaves a lingering sweetness in the mouth.

The world of Japanese whiskey

While American whiskey is made from corn, rye, wheat and barley – known as mash – Kikori whiskey is one of the first whiskeys to be distilled from rice at 100 % and produced in Japan. The flavor profile is very different.

It is distilled from local rice and pure mountain water in Kumamoto, located on Japan’s southernmost island, Kyushu. American whiskey enthusiasts might prefer it in mixed preparations rather than served neat, as it lacks the sweetness or stickiness that corn naturally provides.

Kikori whiskey, made from 100% rice, is not as sweet as American whiskey.

Fort Worth’s Shinjuku Station on Magnolia is owned by the same owner as restaurateurs Jarry and Mary Ho’s Tokyo Cafe. In addition to a full range of interesting sakes and cocktails, you’ll find a few Japanese whiskeys on the menu here.

“The Yamazaki 12 single malt, which is produced by Japan’s oldest distillery, is one of my favorite whiskeys due to its smoothness and ability to complement foods,” says Martinez.

It comes from Suntory, which was established in 1923. Martinez notes that this whiskey is in limited supply and difficult to obtain. When you see it on a menu or in a liquor store, you might want to try it.

Shochu

Shochu is the native spirit of Japan. It is a clear drink that offers a rich flavor and a very light smooth finish. It’s distilled from barley – and those who enjoy Japanese mugicha or barley tea will be familiar with the flavor profile. Made in Japan’s Oita Prefecture, known for its mountainous terrain and geothermal springs, iichiko (pronounced every-ko) is a popular brand. It is made from soft, iron-free water that is naturally filtered through 1,000 feet of volcanic rock.

Shinjuku Station’s new signature cocktail, The Magnolia Blossom, features Japanese iichiko Saitan Shochu.

Shinjuku Station adds shochu to a new cocktail ― The Magnolia Blossom. The all-new signature cocktail features iichiko Saitan Shochu, prickly pear and prosecco, with a strawberry sugar rim garnished.

This season, iichiko even launched the HANA label, a limited-edition bottle inspired by the cherry blossom season. With an ABV of 25%, HANA is comprised of iichiko’s Silhouette expression, the more traditional of the brand’s two products. It is described as “sweet and inviting on the nose with aromas of warm rice, white peach, sea brine and golden plum.”

If you’re looking for something different to sip, why not explore the world of Japanese spirits this spring? After all, it’s the season.

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