The pickled ginger that is served along with sushi is called either ‘gari’ or ‘amazu shoga’ and is a type of Japanese pickled vegetable called ‘Tsukemono.’ It has a mildly spicy, vinegary, sweet flavor that is meant as a palette cleanser, eaten between different types of sushi or sashimi.
I was taking some pickled ginger out of the jar last night, and the pickling liquid, a mixture of rice vinegar, sugar, and a little salt, struck my curiosity. Obviously, I can’t leave well enough alone, so I tasted a small spoonful of the liquid. I knew immediately this was a perfect pairing with a nice bottle of Japanese gin that I happen to have.
Within minutes I had this new Japanese Style, Dirty Martini, in my hands. Ice cold gin with the spicy, vinegary ginger syrup and a hint of orange bitters. The rice vinegar sets this (not so) simple syrup apart from other ginger syrups. It adds a certain ‘pow’ and ‘kick’ to a cocktail that a regular ginger simple syrup simply doesn’t have. This is my new favorite type of dirty martini, what I’m calling the Amazu Shoga Martini, a dirty martini, Japanese style.
Never Shake Gin Cocktails
Gin has an interesting similarity with red wine and aeration and I’ll use this as an example of why never to shake gin. We are all familiar with the practice of letting red wine ‘breathe’, decanting, and swirling the wine in the glass prior to drinking. Decanting red wine and exposing it to oxygen for a short time will soften the flavors, allow some of the more volatile aromas to escape and release the more pleasant fruit and oak aromas in the wine. However, if allowed to breathe for an extended amount of time, the finer subtle qualities of the wine will not only disappear but eventually, the wine turns to vinegar.
Gin is very similar to red wine in this matter, and the process of shaking gin accelerates the breathing process exponentially.
Gin has a complex mixture of aromas divided into three parts, top notes, middle notes, and base notes. With gin the most desirable qualities are in the top note, all of the botanicals: juniper, pine, fruit, spice, and floral notes. Unfortunately, when gin has been agitated by shaking, the top notes are the first to go, leaving only the less desirable middle and base notes. Bruising the gin won’t turn it to vinegar, but it will leave the gin dull and lifeless, with all of the amazing botanicals that are so desirable lost to the inside of a cocktail shaker
Here is my recipe for the Amazu Shoga Martini | Dirty Martini Japanese Style
Dirty Martini Japanese Style | Amazu Shoga Martini
- 2 Ounces Gin
- 1/2 Ounce Dry Vermouth
- 3/4 Ounce Ginger Pickling Liquid Gari, sushi ginger
- 2 Dashes Orange Bitters
- Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker over ice, stir until ice cold
- Pour into an ice-cold Martini glass, serve with a garnish of pickled ginger