Drinks

This New Cocktail Menu Is Inspired by 'Spirited Away'

‘Magic' is an actual ingredient listed on the menu
PABU 'Spirited Away' Cocktails
Photos: PABU

Forget your summer spritzers. At PABU, Michael Mina and Ken Tominaga's izakaya-style Japanese restaurant in San Francisco, head bartender Kaitlin Ryan is taking the summer cocktail game to a whole other level. Actually, a whole other world, if you consider the Spirit Realm. 

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Ryan has dreamed up 10 whimsical drinks based on the beloved Studio Ghibli animated classic Spirited Away, seamlessly combining seasonal California flair with traditional Japanese ingredients. Where else can you get a drink made with dragon pearl Absolut Elyx vodka, Manzanilla, plum, citrus, an egg white and boba? Called Haku's Lair, it's served with a side of "magic" (at least, according to the menu).

Studio Ghibli, the animation studio founded by legendary animator and director Hayao Miyazaki, is best known for its anime feature films, which include My Neighbor Totoro, Howl's Moving Castle and Ponyo. Widely regarded as the studio's greatest film, Spirited Away is Miyazaki's coming-of-age story about a girl named Chihiro lost in the spirit world.

There are, of course, drinks created for die-hard Miyazaki fans in mind. The signature Spirited Away, made of The Botanist gin, shiso vermouth, fino sherry, apricot and salt, is a fresh yet decadent option, while Miyazaki's Garden, a delicious concoction of Glasshouse shiso brandy, chareau, citrus and black pepper, stands as a dreamy ode to the Japanese artist who many argue does escapism better than anyone else. Shikigami's Trick—pineapple St. George shochu, overproof rum, coconut, lychee and citrus—is a light summer delight, served with a mini paper crane resembling the magical creature in the movie.

Rounding out the new range of cocktails are drinks for those who just want a taste of Japan. Calpico Cat is a twist on the popular Japanese carbonated drink, combined with mescal, Espolòn Reposado, ambrato vermouth, strawberry and lemongrass, served in an adorable cat mug. If we had to choose a showstopper, however, it'd be the Tasteful Noodz, which can be described as a bowl of ramen if it weren't an alcoholic beverage. Containing Mars Iwai Japanese whisky, Cynar, chicken ramen, mirin and citrus, the drink is served in a bowl, topped with ramen toppings printed with edible paper, and a salted quail's egg.

Whatever drink you decide on, be prepared to order another. And don't worry; you won't get turned into a pig if you over-order. A hangover, maybe. But definitely not a pig.

Brea Salim is an Indonesian food writer living in the Bay Area by way of NYC and New England. Follow her on Instagram at @breasalim15.

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