Episode 033 - Japanese Cocktails

Japanese Cocktails.jpg

What’s shakin, cocktail fans.

In the past two episodes, we delved into the history of the spice trade and the cocktail influences exerted by the Indian Subcontinent, and then we took a trip to the North American Frontier, where we learned about the rise of the saloon and the story of how ice paved the way for the modern cocktail.

If you listened to either of those episodes, you know that we’re also celebrating the launch of the Embitterment Heritage Collection, which is our new premium line of cocktail bitters. So, if you want to learn a lot about the flavor profiles or signature cocktails you can experiment with when using our Liquid Gold Ancient Trade Bitters, or our Frontier Sarsaparilla Bitters, you can find a lot of great descriptions and recipes in those last few episodes that will help fuel your imagination.

Real Wasabi Rhizomes

Real Wasabi Rhizomes

Today’s guest of honor, though, is our Iki Japanese Bitters, which highlight some of the most important flavors from the Japanese Archipelago, including REAL wasabi, seaweed, shitake mushroom, sesame, and sencha green tea.

In addition to some great cocktail recipes and a bit of Japanese history in culture, this episode also features a great interview with Jennifer Bloeser of Oregon Coast Wasabi - our wasabi grower!

Featured Cocktails

The Iki Martinez

  • 2 oz of gin
  • ½ oz sweet vermouth (I used Carpano Antica)
  • ¼ oz of Maraschino liqueur
  • 1 dropper of Iki Japanese Bitters

This is a stirred drink, so after you chill these ingredients in your mixing pint, strain them into a nice stemmed cocktail glass and garnish, if you’d like, with a lemon twist.

That tiny amount of Maraschino liqueur gives a bit of lushness to this drink that acts as a perfect counterpoint to the green, spicy, umami flare of the Iki Japanese bitters. Lovely to sip on slowly, and the flavor profile definitely evolves as this cocktail warms slightly.

The Edo Project

  • 2 oz Japanese Whiskey (I used
  • ½ oz Dry vermouth (I used Vya from California)
  • 1 dropper full of Iki Japanese Bitters

This is somewhere between a Dry Manhattan and a Rob Roy, with a really funky twist added by the Iki Japanese Bitters. And like the Iki Martinez, all you’ve gotta do is stir this until well chilled, and then strain it into your cocktail glass.

You’ll notice that both of these cocktails are fairly simple, and if there’s an extravagance, it’s in the quality of the ingredients, not the complexity.

Show Notes


The centerpiece of this episode is our interview with Jennifer Bloeser of Oregon Coast Wasabi. Here are some fun facts about this fascinating ingredient.

 Wasabi Growing Conditions

Wasabi is a FULL-SHADE plant, which means it thrives in the cool, wet climate of Oregon. But, that also makes it a versatile indoor plant if you can keep it away from windows or skylights. You can order wasabi plant starts directly from Oregon Coast Wasabi and give your green thumb a bit of exercise!

Wasabi Flavor Profile

The "wasabi" you get on your little plastic sushi tray is actually just rehydrated horseradish powder that's dyed green. Sorry. 

Real wasabi has a much more complex flavor profile that features a number of floral and vegetal notes. In addition, the leaves have a peppery, almost celery-like quality and are delicious in a salad, or as a green juice base.

In addition, Jennifer mentioned that the chemical responsible for the "spice" in wasabi is actually water-based (as opposed to oil-based spice molecules found in chilis). This is why you get that quick hit to the nose that immediately fades, allowing your mucous membranes to recover more quickly. 


Historical Uses for Wasabi

According to many historical records, wasabi has informally observed nutrigenic properties, including anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial effects. This is perhaps why it was paired with raw seafood. There has also been some interest recently in using wasabi as an anti-cancer agent, and even a pipe dream about hair growth.

No one at Modern Bar Cart or Oregon Coast Wasabi claims to be a doctor or offer medical advice on this front. Please consult your physician before doing literally anything.

Japanese Aesthetics

Just a couple notes on why we think Japanese aesthetics are so great, and how they influenced our thinking as we developed our Iki Japanese Bitters

Wabi Sabi - The concept that age and wear can enhance the life or power of an object.

Kintsugi - The art of embellishing or highlighting the imperfections or cracks in an object in order to celebrate its life.

Iki - Simply translated, "detachment."

Iki is both an aesthetic word and a way of life. It’s a type of style that’s unique to the people of Japan because it pits their own unique aesthetic values against certain universal truths of the human experience - namely that life is hard, and if you get attached to something or someone, you might experience loss.

Iki emphasizes "lived experiences" because it is impossible to have "taste" without doing the physical act of "tasting." 

Upcoming Events

The Art of the Cocktail

First, I got an email from our friend of the Podcast, Chad Robinson, who is a brand rep over at Catoctin Creek Distilling in Purcellville, Virginia. And Chad wanted me to share with you all that there is a series called The Art of the Cocktail, led by Catoctin Creek founder Scott Harris. And you’ve still got time to sign up for the final three courses, which are:

  • January 26 - New Orleans mojo - The sophisticated and complex beauty of the Sazerac
  • February 2 - Moonshine in American culture - 1930 to present day
  • February 9 - Toddies and warm cocktails

McClintock Distilling Winter Whiskey Market

Next, if you want to come hang out with the Modern Bar Cart team (myself included), definitely put February 3rd on your calendar, when we’ll be at McClintock Distilling in Frederick, MD for their Annual Winter Whiskey Market.

You can sample and purchase our whole line of products there, including the new Embitterment Heritage Collection, and there will be good food and live music throughout the afternoon. I can tell you that these guys know how to throw a party, so come and hang out anytime from 12:00-8:00pm. Again, that’s Saturday, February 3rd at McClintock Distilling in Frederick, MD.