The colours of Sakura blossoms are everywhere – even in London. It’s Spring – the grey skies are leaving us and the trees welcome these warmer days with pastel pink.
There is a cherry blossom, or Sakura, season which travels across Japan. It starts on the islands of Okinawa in the far south west in February and finishes in northern Hokkaido in May. Weather conditions govern the dates of the season but whenever it arrives there are celebrations and festivals.
The tradition of hanami or cherry blossom-viewing goes back centuries. The festival had great importance in former times because it announced the rice-planting season and was used to predict the year’s harvest. The blossom’s short-lived beauty is also considered a metaphor for life. The Japanese believed the Sakura trees contained spirits; sake was offered to them and this became the hanami party.
I wanted to make a delicate pink cocktail to represent the beauty of this Sakura season. I also wanted to use sake. Japan has once again been hit by devastating earthquakes so a cocktail with junmai dry sake not only offers support for the future of the sake industry but also celebrates the fortitude of Japan and its rich culture.
1 part cranberry juice and 1 part vodka added to 2 parts dry sake
1 part Cranberry vodka and 1 part dry sake
Shake with plenty of ice and serve in a martini glass. Float a blossom on top, if you have such a thing.
If you want to make your own cranberry vodka then take 500g of fresh or frozen cranberries and add to 1 litre of vodka in a glass or ceramic jug. Leave to infuse in a cool dark place for 3 weeks, shaking every few days. Strain and bottle.
The advantage of this recipe is that you still have the cranberries, which can be made into sauces and desserts. They are particularly delicious at Christmas when mixed with traditional sweet mincemeat and used as a topping for a tart – perhaps served with a glass of Sake Crantini alongside.