by Sheila Swerling-Puritt
Even though this winter so far has given local golfers a reprieve allowing them to head out to the courses on a few balmy days, parts of Canada are still in the throes of winter. Icy blasts of Arctic air and storms charging up the Ohio Valley guarantee, I'm sure, at least a couple more months of shivering and shoveling. I know, my bias is showing. I don't tolerate the cold well. I respect those of you who love whipping down a mountain through a foot of powder snow, your eyes tearing with joy. I prefer my snow on canvas, in my collection of paintings of serene winter scenes, and my favourite winter sport is après ski. (I'm definitely a qualified instructor.)
During the winter season in Japan, giant conifers on the slopes of Mount Zao in the Asahi Mountains are coated with layer upon layer of snow and ice, until eventually their shapes are obscured and distorted. These petrified giants seem to stalk the valleys and are known as "snow monsters" or "juhyo." Their awesome beauty is celebrated at Mount Zao's annual Snow Monster festival.
While we continue to freeze our knees, Japan's "snow monsters" are already melting and blossoms are in bloom. Throughout the year, the Japanese are inclined to visit hot springs while celebrating the turning of the seasons. Their soaking is enhanced by little trays floating on the water bearing cups of sake. You can re-create the effect in your hot tub or bathtub (but not in the Jacuzzi). Look out your window at a beautiful scene, pin up a picture or just close your eyes, let your mind wander, and sip sake serenely. It's a magical drink with or without Japanese food.
Sake is a rice-based wine brewed like beer. It contains no sulfites or other preservatives, so it should be refrigerated after opening and will last about a week. Treat it like white wine. Sake tends to be well priced, readily available and is easy to enjoy on its own or in cocktails like the Saketini, Sake Screwdrivers and Sake & Tonic, which are all becoming increasingly popular.
Wokka Saki is a new addition to the flavoured vodka market that I discovered while I was wandering around the Gourmet Food & Wine Expo. The press release describes it as east meets west. I describe it as sake meets vodka. (It was inspired by the powerful winds from the Siberian plains that whip the surface of the Sea of Japan, becoming heavy with freezing vapour before hitting the Japanese coast, creating those snow monsters.) A three-step micro-distillation in a single stainless steel pot still at the 200-year-old Thames Distillery in London ensures that the grain vodka is smooth. Imported Japanese sake is blended (20%) with the (80%) vodka and Asian fruit is added, giving it a distinctive flavour. Some drinkers find peach, passion fruit, lychee and floral notes on the finish.
They must be doing something right. Wokka Saki was awarded a Double Gold in the flavoured vodka category in 2003 and again in 2005 at the International San Francisco Spirits Competition against 55 other international brands. The price of a 750 mL pale blue frosted bottle is around $37.00. Wokka Saki is already a big hit in South Beach and London. It was launched here in Halifax and is now in Ontario, and is being offered to the rest of the Liquor Boards in Canada.
The Pinkerton (a new twist to Gekkeikan's Madame Butterfly)
- 1 oz. Gekkeikan Sake, chilled
- ½ oz. Gekkeikan Plum Wine, chilled
- ½ oz. Nonino Pear Williams Eau de Vie, chilled
- ¼ oz Chambord Liqueur
- ½ small pear
- lemon juice
- wooden skewer
- Combine all ingredients over ice. Shake well.
- Pour into cocktail glass.
- Cut pear lengthwise into 4 slices and dip into lemon juice to keep pear from turning brown.
- Skewer and lay across rim of glass.
If you would prefer a tall drink, pour cocktail over ice cubes and add club soda. Garnish with fresh pear.
The Rising Shine
- 1½ oz. Absolut Citron Vodka (chilled)
- 1½ oz. Gekkeikan Sake (chilled)
- ½ oz. Grand Marnier Liqueur
- 1½ oz. fresh orange juice (chilled)
- Combine all ingredients, mix well and pour over ice into a highball glass.
- Garnish with orange slice.
- 1½ oz. Wokka Saki, chilled
- ¼ oz. Bols Blue Curaçao
- 1 oz. club Soda
- Well before serving time, place cocktail glass into freezer.
- Remove glass from freezer (try not to leave finger marks on the glass).
- Add the Wokka Saki and Blue Curaçao over ice into glass and then add club soda.
By adding apple juice into the equation, this next cocktail develops a definite grapefruit flavour.
- 1½ oz Wokka Saki, chilled
- ½ oz. cranberry juice, chilled
- ½ oz apple juice, chilled
- Juice of ½ lime
- Thin slice of lime
- Stir together.
- Pour over ice into a highball glass.
- Garnish with slice of lime.
For more information, you can contact Sheila at firstname.lastname@example.org.