In Japan, there’s a fleeting, cherished period during spring when the sakura (cherry) blossoms are in full bloom. Everyone heads outside to celebrate the blooms and enjoy the shift in season.
This tradition, known as hanami, is a time of “beautiful cascades of sakura flowers through the parks and streets of Japan,” says Yoshi Onishi, group beverage manager of Surry Hill bar Tokyo Bird and new Chinatown bar Banchō. That special time is the inspiration for the Tokyo Bird crew’s new Roku Gin Sakura pop-up bar, which will be held at their forthcoming Surry Hills Japanese-Peruvian bar and restaurant, Nikkei (which is due to open shortly after the pop-up).
Roku is distiller Suntory’s “signature craft Japanese gin”, explains Onishi, and it’s the base of the six cocktails he’s specially created for the spring pop-up. The name Roku, which means “six” in Japanese, refers to the gin’s six Japanese botanicals, which are each hand-picked at the peak of their season, including sakura blossoms and leaves which are harvested in spring. “Roku is considerate of Japanese flavours and it’s a more citrus-forward gin with its yuzu notes,” says Onishi.
The hanami-inspired cocktails include the Ruby Roku, a sour, bitter-edged creation made with Roku Gin, an Italian herbal aperitif, house-made pink grapefruit cordial and lemon juice; the Yozakura (meaning hanami night-time), a Japanese-style Negroni with Roku gin, sweet vermouth, Italian herbal aperitif and orange umeshu (plum wine); and the Tea Lady, which uses Roku Gin with peach liqueur, lemon juice, sencha tea syrup and egg whites.
To get you in the sakura sprit, here are two of Onishi’s cocktail recipes to try at home.
Makes 1 serving. Approximately 1.9 standard drinks.
50ml Roku Gin
10ml maraschino (dry cherry) liqueur
5ml cherry blossom syrup
3 dashes aromatic bitters
Measure ingredients into mixing glass. Fill with ice and stir for 10 to 15 seconds. Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. Garnish with a pink grapefruit twist and serve.
Makes 1 serving. Approximately 1.5 standard drinks.
40ml Roku gin
15ml fino sherry
20ml yuzu juice
10ml sugar syrup
2 dashes orange bitters
Measure ingredients into a shaker tin. Fill tin with ice, close top and shake. Double strain into a chilled Nick and Nora glass. Garnish with sakura blossom sugar rim or grapefruit peel.
The Roku Gin Sakura Pop-Up Bar, and Botanicals Cocktail Masterclasses, will take place on various evenings from September 26 to October 19. Book a spot at the bar or the masterclass now to secure your place.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Roku Gin.