Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Bartender Diaries

A Sucker for Sake

So, remember when I told you about my time at B.A.R. and mentioned meeting cool people from around the country? Well, here’s one of them. Its funny – that
proverb about books and their covers… At first look, David Roth is a tough talkin’ tattooed guy from Connecticut. If I’d met him in the street, instead of studying spirits and cocktails, I would have pegged him for a beer-and-a-shot man. Macho, straight forward. How would I have known that I was sitting next to a sake expert – who has studied in Japan! Holy smokes. I had to get this guy on The Liquid Muse. In his own words:

"About 4 years ago I was approached to run a new yakitori and sake bar in Hartford. I said, “A what and what bar?” Yakitori is easy. It's chicken skewers. o.k. Sake? Sake is that hot stuff that gives you a massive hangover right? It's really strong and you drop it in beer for sake bombs. What’s to know?

Fast forward to the present day and what I know about sake will bore most people within one minute. My quest for knowledge began with buying a book by John Gauntner, which I highly recommend. Then there is info on the Internet. I tasted as much sake as I could. I asked my reps questions about sake that most could not even answer. Mostly I got, "The good stuff is served cold.” True.

One day a sake salesman named Michael and I were talking and I was asking him all kinds of sake questions. He was impressed with my knowledge and asked where I had learned all the info. I told him I had John's book. He asked why I didn’t sign up for John's class in Tokyo. I was like, “There's a sake class in Tokyo? Seriously?” So I did.

Sake is delicious. It's subtle and sweet, it's fruity and dry, it is many things and I like it. Usually convincing someone to try premium chilled sake is best handled by letting them taste it. There are many grades and styles within those cate
gories. It gets a little confusing. So, I decided to dummy it down and make many different sake- tinis. It is a way to introduce sake into peoples’ vocabulary - and their blood stream. If they have questions after that, a thirst for knowledge if you will, I can go from there.

One of the most popular cocktails at my bar is a Cucumber Sake Martini. I use Crop Organic Cucumber vodka, a nice tokubetsu junmai grade sake called Shirakabe Gura White Label, and just a touch of simple syrup. Shake it up and pour into a nice chilled martini glass with a lighlty salted rim and a cucumber pinwheel garnish. Tastes like summer. Well, summer and a salad.

Cucumber Sake Martini
1 1/2 ounces Crop Organic Cucumber Vodka
1 1/2 ounces premium sake, preferably junmai grade.
Dash of simple syrup

Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled cocktail glass

At Koji offer ten or so sake cocktails and offer 40 or so premium sakes by the bottle and glass. Since sake is lower in alcohol than most spirits, 14 - 16%, it softens up the drinks and allows the consumer to enjoy more than one cocktail without falling out of their barstool. Sake is still a hard sell in Hartford but I try to practice, "education without pretension". The category is growing in the U.S and worth getting a little info on. Luckily my bar is still one of the hottest spots in Hartford. Our drinks are constantly featured in the Hartford Courant's Liquor Cabinet. Sake sales can always be better but I can't stop trying to get it into peoples mouths. Check out my bar at Kanpai!"


Samantha Harrigan said...

I'm used to reading about the fabulous bars in L.A., New York, and Chicago up here and then WOW! an awesome Hartford bar that's only 10 minutes away!?! Thanks for showing CT some love :) said...

You're welcome~ I am always excited to be able to highlight places off the beaten path!


Jenna van Schoor said...

I was always hesitant about trying sake, but when a more cultured friend of mine took me out for sushi, I became a converted fan. Especially when he told me that only another person should pour your sake for you- thought that was interesting. And quite gentlemanly.

The cucumber sake-tini looks delicious, I wish I had a sake bar 10 minutes away too!