Forget sake bombs and its accompanying whiff of college days; sake is a complex, yet elegantly approachable alcohol that deserves more than a quick turn in beer.
Made from fermented rice, the traditional Japanese alcohol performs equally well as the main star in cocktails, or as a supporting character to other ingredients, thanks to its rich umami flavours.
But not every cocktail works with sake.
Sakes typically run between 14 – 16% ABV, making them less potent than strong distilled spirits like whisky and vodkas — both of which hold up well in mixes.
Also, sakes are more subtle compared to other popular alcohols used in cocktails. This leaves them prone to being overpowered by other ingredients and spirits.
That’s why you’ll find most sake cocktails crafted around delicate and fragrant flavours, making them perfect as boozy summer refreshers.
And what better way to beat the heat than with not one, but nine ways to enjoy a delicious tipple?
Generally, you’d want sakes with a smooth and clean profile for the recipes below. Try sakes that are freshly bottled and leaning slightly towards the dry side (between 0 to +5 SMV).
Alternatively, for that really summery spritzy feel, give sparkling sakes a go instead!
1. Thai Basil-Infused Sake Cocktail
If you’ve ever had authentic Thai cuisine, you’ll know what an amazingly fragrant herb Thai basil is, with its fresh, crisp pungency some liken to a cross between citrus and herbal-licorice. Infuse it in sake, before adding splashes of lime juice and vodka and a hint of yuzu bitters for that perfect Thai escape.
2. Grapefruit, Ginger & Lemongrass Sake Cocktail
This is a gorgeous blend of floral and citrus with just the right kick of spice. Delicate sake notes also come through for a smooth finish. Because ginger and lemongrass lose their flavours if you overheat them, the recipe recommends muddling them with sugar — a great alternative to a simple syrup.
3. Lychee Sake Cocktail
Lychees are the golden retrievers of the cocktail world. They’re sweet crowd-pleasers at any gathering. By far the easiest recipe in this list, simply pop a few canned lychees, sake, ice, and lychee syrup in a shaker, give it a couple of good shakes, and voila!
4. Tangerine Ginger Sake Sangria
Forget boring red wine sangria. Stir up sunbeams in a jug with this unconventional yet great-tasting summer recipe! With bright tangerine bursts, spicy kicks of old ginger, and just the right hint of fresh mint, this sake sangria is everything you’d expect to cool you off on a hot day. Use nigori (cloudy and unfiltered) sake for increased feel and flavour.
5. Kyoho Grape Sake Cobbler
Another excellent sake-based cocktail from Loving Cup. This recipe also adds manzanilla sherry, vermouth, and aged cachaca for every alcoh.. — ehemmm, connoisseur’s — boozy dream. Top that with Kyoho grapes, one of the world’s largest and sweetest grapes, and you’re set for delicious memories to last you throughout summer.
6. Lychee Rose Sake Cocktail
This lychee cocktail requires a bit more effort than the previous one, but it promises to be just as delightful, if not more so, thanks to a heady combination of lychee and rose. The recipe calls for a specific bottle of sake — Lychee Hana Sake, but it’s not too difficult to infuse your own sake with lychees for a similar effect.
7. Green Tea, Ginger Lime & Lemongrass Sake Cocktail
Another lovely recipe that uses nigori sake and lime juice as its base, and lemongrass and ginger for accents. The addition of freshly brewed green tea however, gives this cocktail an additional depth that’s pleasant yet not overwhelming, thanks to green tea’s naturally low astringency.
8. Pineapple & Jalapeño Sake Sangria
Refreshingly spicy, this sake sangria is not just delicious for sweltering days, but easy to make too. All you need are sake, 2-3 other ingredients, and just 15 minutes to get a real thirst quencher. Personally, I prefer using bird’s eye chilli (a.k.a chilli padi) because I’m a die-hard chilihead, but if sauces like Sriracha make you shed big manly tears, stick to jalapeño and you can’t go wrong.
9. Lime & Kombu Sake Cocktail
Not to be confused with kombucha, the fermented health tea, kombu is a kelp used in many traditional Japanese dishes. Often referred to as the ‘king of seaweed’, kombu lends a rich umami twist to the usual sake and lime juice combination. Use a light, clean, and easy drinking sake to balance out the other umami and tangy flavours.