While the ball drop still feels like a fresh memory to some, this Saturday marks the arrival of another annual celebration: the Chinese New Year. And as legendary ‘90s grunge rockers Alice in Chains warned us: here come the rooster! If December 31st is all about champagne, this time of year ought to be all about Baijiu — an ancient spirit traditionally fermented from sorghum or rice. But even as the funky-flavored drink is making inroads here in the States, it remains relatively elusive compared to its Japanese counterpart, Shochu. Since the Japanese also observe this weekend’s holiday (as the Lunar New Year), it’s perfectly reasonable to make a toast using their own rice-based distillate.
Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill in Los Angeles is ringing in the rooster with one of their own: the Red Rooster, a cheerful concoction built around Shochu. It’s tasty and timely enough to earn its wings as our Cocktail of the Week.
Photo Credit: Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill
THE RED ROOSTER COCKTAIL
Mixologist Frieda Hor designed her drink to evoke flavors of the Far East. Beyond the base spirit, these notes come from lychee and honey blossom syrup, lending the blend a gentle, floral sweetness. It’s also a food-friendly mashup, working particularly well with the light umami elements of raw fish. Convenient, as this is a sushi bar, and all. “The Red Rooster is both a vibrant welcoming of the new year, and created to be light, sophisticated, and, of course, easy to drink,” Hor explains.
It’s also easy enough to make at home. We suggest using Kikori as your base spirit. Although the liquor — distilled from rice — is technically labeled a whiskey here in the States, many consider it a barrel-aged Shochu. Semantics aside, the spirit gives off notes of green apple and hay, and clocks in at a respectable 82 proof.
– 2 oz Shochu or Kikori Japanese Whiskey
– 2 oz Lychee Purée
– ¼ oz St Elizabeth Allspice Dram
– ½ oz Lemon Juice
– ½ oz Ginger Simple Syrup*
In an empty cocktail shaker, add all above ingredients. Add ice and shake. Strain into glass filled with fresh ice. At Blue Ribbon, Hor serves it in a rocks glass, garnished with lime zest and a maraschino cherry.
*For the ginger simple syrup, add ½ cup peeled, chopped ginger to 1 cup each water and sugar. Heat until sugar dissolves. Turn off heat and let ginger steep for 30 minutes. Strain and keep refrigerated for up to two weeks.
Since this cocktail is relatively low-proof, feel free to enjoy the Red Rooster repeatedly over the course of a single drinking session. This is fortunate, as the Chinese New Year customarily lasts for just over two weeks. Nonetheless, Hor and crew will cut you off after February 5th, when the festive arrangement flies the coop. If you find yourself in the City of Angels sometime before then, you can taste a tipple for $8. “This cocktail is ideal for a spirit like Kikori,” she adds. “The subtle nuttiness complements the rounded flavors of ginger and lychee, giving the drink a balanced finish”
Here’s to another happy and healthy New Year. But don’t get too comfortable: Nowruz, Iranian New Year, is just around the corner!
Make The Red Rooster Cocktail at home! Or just head to the store and pick up a bottle to enjoy. Either way, you’re going to have a good time.