Eastern Promises

New cocktail inspirations from Japan

Aside from the hard shake, Japanese drinking culture has exerted surprisingly little influence over the world of American craft cocktails.

But Yuri Kato–founder of CocktailTimes.com and author of the new Japanese Cocktails–thinks that should change.

Her book is more an exploration of Japanese drinking than a guide to the Japanification of the modern bar. But there's plenty to inspire mixers of every persuasion.

Kato traces the history of Japan's three main spirits–sake, shochu and whiskey–and offers cocktail recipes for each. You'll find classic drinks like Oolong Hai, a refreshing mix of barley shochu and oolong tea served at nearly every izakaya, as well as more creative libations, like Shikoku Island Iced Tea, made with sake, lemongrass and umeshu, a green plum liqueur.

After reading Japanese Cocktails, you might deem aloe vera juice, togarashi pepper and gum syrup must-haves for your home bar. And, of course, you'll want to stock the ingredient Kato considers most indispensable: yuzu juice, which she says plays well with all spirits (especially whiskey).

And thanks to Kato, we now consider shochu–Japan's oldest spirit– a new bar staple. Try it in a Kyusu Sour, made with pineapple juice, aloe vera juice and soda (click here to download the recipe).