Spring has arrived in Palm Beach. Time to say goodbye to the cozy elegance of winter libations and let the spirit of vernal cocktails bloom. One magnificent springtime celebration is the Sakura Hanami, the Japanese practice of viewing the blossoming cherry trees.
To welcome the season and honor the tradition, this month’s cocktail comes directly from the pages of my newly published book, Low-Proof Happy Hour, your guide to low-alcohol cocktails for times when you’d prefer to keep things light while still enjoying a proper drink.
Enter: The Sakura Mule. Featuring a sweet, fragrant syrup of sakura blossoms, this elegant libation adds a soft, intoxicating zing to a mule. It is made low proof by substituting the vodka with shochu, a Japanese spirit distilled on a base of sweet potato, barley, rice, buckwheat, and/or sugar cane, and clocking in at half the alcohol of most high-proof spirits. You can mix the syrup directly into the drink or freeze it into ice cubes and let it melt for a subtle burst of flavor.
Ingredients (serves 1)
1/2 oz. Sakura Syrup
1 oz. lime juice
2 oz. shochu
4 oz. ginger beer
Combine the ingredients and serve over ice in a copper mug.
Ingredients (makes 2 cups)
1/4 cup cherry blossom tea
1 cup boiling water
1 cup coconut sugar
Steep the tea in the boiling water for 15 minutes to make a strong infusion. Combine the infusion and sugar in a pan and heat until boiled, stirring to allow the sugar to dissolve evenly. Strain into a sealable glass container. The syrup can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. This delicate and delicious sweetener tastes as good on pancakes as it does in drinks.