The sake cocktail could be seen as the sad stepchild of the real thing, a stand-in served only while a restaurant awaits a hard-liquor license. Purists will tell you it's best to avoid them altogether, anyway; if you're looking for a sake fix, they say, the only acceptable route is to sip it straight.
Mixologist A.J. Rathbun begs to differ. In his treatise on wine-based cocktails, Rathbun offers up a lovely array of concoctions that make use of the rich, clean, citrus-inflected flavors of extra dry sake. Don't be afraid to experiment with sake in your favorite recipes, especially as a lower-alcohol replacement for other clear spirits.
The Sake’d Saint
"This slightly holy drink is a variation on a cocktail I originally put together for the Tiger Tail, a dandy spot in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood that has a tasty menu of Asian-inspired snacks and a swell selection of sake and beer, as well as some specialty cocktails that’ll make you hum appreciatively. A warning, though: The menus change fairly regularly, so if you belly up to the Tiger Tail’s lovely sorghum bar and ask for a Sake’d Saint (or something close to it), you may be disappointed--but I’ll bet they’ll serve you up another mix that’ll make you just as happy."
4 star fruit slices
2 lemon wheels
3 oz Junmai or extra dry sake
3 oz St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur
1/2 ounce apricot brandy
1. Add 2 star fruit slices and the lemon wheels to a cocktail shaker. Using a muddler or a wooden tiger, muddle well.
2. Fill the cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the sake, St-Germain, and apricot brandy. Shake extra well.
3. Strain equally into 2 cocktail glasses. Garnish each with a star fruit slice and serve.
5 oz sake
3 oz pomegranate liqueur
Chilled ginger ale
2 orange slices for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the sake and pomegranate liqueur. Shake well (as if you feared being gonged).
2. Fill two highball or comparable glasses with ice cubes. Strain the sake-pomegranate mixture over the ice into the glasses (carefully, again as if you feared gonging).
3. Top off each glass with ginger ale, filling the glass almost to the top. Stir briefly with a thin mallet or long spoon. Garnish each with an orange slice and serve.
Excerpted from Wine Cocktails, by A.J. Rathbun © 2010 and used by permission of The Harvard Common Press