The Bottom Line
- The best look at Japanese cocktails and drinking culture to date.
- Colorful pages filled with fascinating photographs.
- Intriguing, elegant and creative cocktails using Japanese ingredients.
- Great drink ideas for mixing sake, shochu, and Japanese whiskey.
- Tourist information and history about Japan throughout the book.
- The flow of the writing is occasionally broken by oddly placed photos.
- Written by Yuri Kato, spirits industry expert and publisher of www.CocktailTimes.com
- 96 pages, hardcover, full color
- 65 cocktail recipes, including a focus on sake, schochu, and Japanese whisky mixed drinks
- Released February, 2010
- Published by Chronicle Books
- Retails for around $15
Guide Review - Japanese Cocktails by Yuri Kato
Japanese Cocktails is exactly what I have come to expect from Yuri Kato (www.CocktailTimes.com). The cocktails are elegant and have a creative use of flavors that keep balance and Japan's indigenous ingredients in mind. Three of the chapters of the book focus exclusively on sake, shochu, and Japanese whisky, and range from hot teas to creamy cocktails.
While many of the cocktails are Kato's original creations, there are some fascinating classic Japanese drinks and Japanese-inspired twists on a few all-time favorites like the Shiso Ume Mojito and Bloody Mari-Chan. Her explanation of Mizuwari, the popular whisky drink of Japan, is the best background I have found yet about the custom of carving ice balls. One will also find common Japanese ingredients in every drink that add that perfect accent. Yuzu and oolong tea are rather basic, but you will also find umeshu, shark fin, tonkatsu sauce, and a fiery wasabi shochu that is too tempting to resist. This collection of cocktails has something for every taste and is filled with options for a Japanese or sushi dinner party. As an example, this Zen Milk Bath recipe is from the book.
Beyond the captivating cocktails in Japanese Cocktails, the information presented about the three spirits and common Japanese ingredients is intriguing. To read the full book takes little time, yet to fully absorb and understand the complexity of sake grades alone requires a few passes. Kato has also done a wonderful job explaining the lesser known (but growing in popularity) shochu and I found it interesting to learn that there are "shochu advisors" who are equivalent to sommeliers because it is a complicated category of spirit, more so than I thought. Then, we get into the Japanese whisky and Lance Mayhew has expounded on that part of Kato's book in this review.
The last highlight of Japanese Cocktails is by far the sidebars that are filled with interesting trivia and tips about Japanese culture, customs, food and drink. It has the feel of a travel guide disguised as bartending guide, which makes the small book that much more interesting. I know that Kato is a well-seasoned traveler and when she suggests places to go and see and experience, as she does throughout this book, her advice can be trusted and that is elevated by her personal experience living in Japan.
Overall, it is refreshing to finally see a book devoted to a culture and spirits that are a mystery to the majority of Western drinkers. The cocktails are innovative and fabulously designed, the information endless, and the book beautiful. This is a keeper.