Drink of the Week: Kyoto Dream

By Paul Nelson

There is a comfort in settling in with a set of drinks that you know you and those around you like and enjoy. It takes a certain amount of pressure off. That’s where I’ve been settled for the past couple of months. Content. Preparing a rotation of a dozen or so drinks (when we’re hosting), and more often enjoying a subset of those with my wife when we’re making dinner together (mojitos, Manhattans, pisco sours, sazeracs, and Aperol spritzes). 

But there is always a joy and thrill (at least for me!) in learning something new.

I was blessed by Ruth (a parishioner) with the gift of a bottle of Genzou Haguro Honjyozo sake, a gift to her late father from some university students grateful he didn’t want to press charges or file insurance claims after they accidentally backed into his car. Who says mercy is impractical!? It comes in a beautiful corked crockery bottle with a matching sake cup on top. I haven’t done much with sake, so this was an opportunity for experimentation! I knew I wanted to serve it chilled rather than warm, so I went to the Internet for inspiration. I found it in a beautifully illustrated but woefully inadequate (ration and quantity-wise) recipe for a drink I am now claiming as my own and dubbing (thanks to my wife) the Kyoto Dream.

Kyoto Dream

  • 1-inch piece of chopped lemon grass
  • 1-inch piece of fresh, chopped ginger
  • 5 Tbsp raw sugar
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 oz chilled sake
  • Club soda to top

Muddle the first four ingredients together (mash them up – you can do *try* to do this in a glass with a spoon, while some folks use a food processor and I prefer a mortar & pestle). Pour into a glass. Add the chilled sake (I pour it into the mortar & pestle first to help get any residual sugar/lemon/lemon grass/ginger mixture out!) and stir briefly to make sure all the sugar has dissolved. Fill the glass with ice,  then top off the drink with club soda. Stir again to thoroughly mix.

This is an amazingly bright and light drink. Get a good quality sake that is not too overbearing in taste (overly rice-y, to use a technical term). This one was clean and crisp tasting on its own and blended very well with the other ingredients. Lemon grass is an incredibly pungent grass (it’s also pretty – I grew it in our backyard for a while), but also very coarse. While you could blend the lemon grass, ginger and lemon in a food processor, I think the result will leave unpleasant chunks of fiber in the mouth and teeth. By just chopping and then muddling, people can either leave the larger chunks of lemon grass and ginger on the bottom of the glass or munch on them as they like.

This is a great summer drink that requires a little extra work but provides a huge payoff with that first sip. If you think that you’ll be making several of these (nearly everyone Sunday night wanted to try it, especially if they had a sip off a friend’s drink first!), chop up the lemongrass and ginger ahead of time and mix it together in a bowl. Then use about a tablespoon and a half of the mixture for each drink. Enjoy!