Food & Drink

This Japanese Cocktail Will Help You Celebrate Cherry Blossoms

Cherry blossoms can be celebrated anywhere in the world with the right cocktail and the right Japanese craft gin, Roku.

Tyson Peveto
Tyson Peveto

Tyson Peveto is an American travel writer living abroad since 2017. After three years in Bangkok, he currently lives in Germany with his wife and dog.

This Japanese Cocktail Will Help You Celebrate Cherry Blossoms

Seeing the blossoming of the Japanese Sakura, or cherry blossom trees is an unforgettable experience. You might be in Japan, celebrating hanami, the centuries-old tradition of drinking under a blooming Sakura. You might live near one of the numerous collections of cherry blossoms outside of Japan, like the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C., or near the Bonn Altstadt in Germany.

If you don’t live near an area with cherry trees, and you are unable to travel because of the ongoing pandemic and travel restrictions, there is still one more option for you to bring hanami into your home: celebrating cherry blossoms by way of a gin cocktail.

The Japanese craft Roku Gin is hanami in a bottle. The gin is crafted by the House of Suntory, a Japanese maker of spirits that originally opened in 1899, wanting to “create original Japanese Spirits the whole world can enjoy, uniquely made from Japan’s nature and her people.

Suntory craft distillery

Photo: Emily Arden/Gastronomista 

The artisans at the Suntory have combined six unique botanicals, sourced from Japan, to create a “multi-layered, perfectly balanced gin”. The six botanicals? Sakura flower, Sakura leaf, Yuzu peel, Sencha tea, Sansho pepper, and Gyokuro tea. These ingredients blend together flavors of flora, citrus, green tea, and a hint of spice.

That said, these ingredients are not overpowering. Together, they create a light, subtly floral gin that wouldn’t be overwhelming in any cocktail (or even neat). The dry edge of gin is softened by these flavors, making Roku dangerously drinkable.

Roku Gin is produced in Suntory’s specialized craft distillery, the “Liquor Atelier”. Here, they use four different types of pot stills so that the botanicals are separately distilled to extract the best version of their flavor, a process unique to Roku. Explaining further, the Roku website gives an example of the separate distillation process: “the delicate scent of cherry blossom is drawn out through vacuum distillation in stainless pot stills, whereas the deep flavor of yuzu is achieved by distillation in copper pot stills.”

Suntory craft distillery

Photo: Emily Arden/Gastronomista 

To get the best experience out of the gin, the artisans at Suntory have created a cocktail that perfectly complements the complexity and unique flavors of Roku Gin. Whether you’re sitting under a Sakura tree in a Tokyo park or looking at videos of the blossoms on Youtube in your home, this cocktail will bring the smells and tastes of hanami directly to you. But first, order your own bottle online! (Check your local liquor store or the linked websites for shipping to the US and EU.)

Roku Shun Sour Recipe:

  • 2 parts Suntory Roku Gin
  • 75 parts fresh lemon or lime juice
  • 75 parts simple syrup
  • Muddle 1 strawberry and add 2-3 basil leaves
  • Shake all ingredients with ice and double strain into a coupe glass.

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