I was out to brunch recently, scanning the cocktail menu, noticing that the Bloody Mary has started to become a drink category all unto itself… Well, at least there was a page worth of riffs on that ubiquitous brunch eye opener at the establishment at which I was dining. As I read the list, I noticed that among all the variations, the one that was missing was a Japanese-themed cocktail… Not to run from a good challenge, I decided to concoct an appropriate Japanese-themed version of the Bloody Mary.
I started by de-constructing my favorite Bloody Mary… Tomato juice as the primary mixer and Vodka as the primary spirit. Horseradish as a major spice element, with a kitchen cabinet’s worth of other odd items for interest, such as Worcestershire sauce and always Tabasco for heat.
I then started thinking about Japan and the iconic items that would need to be subbed into the drink. Clearly Vodka would be replaced with a nice dry, full-strength Sake. Tomato juice could remain, but in lieu of horseradish I thought about a derivative of the root – Wasabi. Ginger needs to be in the mix, as does a splash of soy sauce. Lastly, because the Wasabi heat is a dulled in solution, I thought cayenne might be nice to amp up the warmth.
Bench testing began and I found a number of interesting issues… Because Sake is at best 20% alcohol, the drink is generally a lower-octane cocktail, which needs to be accounted for in the overall mix. Another factor is that Sake varies widely from producer and style. I tested multiple versions and landed on the Ty-Ku Soju as my favorite in the mix. I found Wasabi powder, which you then convert to paste. Important – you want to work with an emulsified paste and NOT the powder. Creating the paste allows you to vary the concentration of the Wasabi, creating a mix that affords the right degree of Wasabi intensity. The straight powder does not perform well in the cocktail. Last point, if you are mincing your own ginger from fresh, make sure you mince very finely and discard any stray stringy fibers. You want the ginger to meld into the drink, not unlike horseradish.
After many substandard cocktails that lacked the appropriate eye-opening quality of the original, I finally landed on a recipe that delivered what I was looking for.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present a Paul Malagrifa original – The Bloody Samurai:
2 oz. Ty-Ku Sujo Sake
6 oz. Tomato or V8 Juice
½ tsp. Concentrated Wasabi Paste
1 tsp. Minced Ginger
1 tsp. Soy Sauce
2 dashes Celery Bitters
1 pinch Cayenne Pepper
Stir the ingredients with ice in a mixing glass until cold. Serve in a highball glass on the rocks, garnished with a stalk of celery and pickled ginger.