The Sake © Jannie Huang of Little Green Pickle
Sake has long been associated with dubious karaoke-bar offerings (sugary-sweet lycheetinis, Sapporo sake bombs), but the fermented rice drink has a lot more to give the mixology world. Pioneering bartenders are using high-quality sake to create superb new cocktails that showcase its range of flavors, from light and dry to full-bodied and mildly sweet.
At Smallwares, Momofuku alum Johanna Ware's "inauthentic Asian" restaurant in Portland, OR, a list of fifteen sakes led to an inventive twist on a Negroni called The Sake. The drink combines Aperol and local Imbue Bittersweet Vermouth with Sayuri nigori sake, a hazy, unfiltered bottling that's floral and assertive. “Sake can get overpowered, but this is almost like adding fruit juice,” Ware explains. The Sake (as the drink was eventually called, beating out "Nigorioni") is bitter, tannic and citrusy—with a creamy-sweet finish.