Veteran bartender Masahiro Urushido is the kind of mixologist that can pull together the most fascinating, complex cocktails you can imagine, and make it all look easy. But while his new Japanese-American cocktail bar in Manhattan, called Katana Kitten, is smart and ambitious, it also embraces a philosophy of simplicity, serving drinks that are upgrades of everyday staples—a gin and tonic with a shiso-quinine tincture, say, or a bright blue Calpico Swizzle made with the cult-favorite, slightly milky Japanese soft drink.
And for the end of the summer, one of his tastiest creations is a light, refreshing punch that’s easy to replicate at home. Calling it simply the “Delicious Summer Punch”—hey, why not name it like it is?—Urushido’s vibrant drink starts from a base of gin or vodka, together with the Japanese green tea Sencha, a bit of a floral Italian liqueur, and fresh lime—plus sake and bubbles.
Why the green tea? “Tea gives more body to the drink, rather than just using ice or water for dilution,” he explains. “Another important factor is the tannin in the tea. It deepens the flavor and nicely dries out the balance on your palate.”
Citrus and an Italian bergamot liqueur provide balance, as does sake; “It doesn’t need to be expensive,” he says. “A nice Junmai-Daiginjo works great,” with some having a “sweet, honeydew melon-like aroma” that adds another layer of complexity to the cocktail. And the drink finishes off with bubbles—because what punch isn’t made better by bubbles? (He recommends a French or American Blanc de Blanc.)
While there’s a ton going on in this cocktail, it’s extremely simple to make; once you’ve brewed green tea and squeezed a few limes, most of the work is done. “It’s easy to transport in pre-batched form,” says Urushido, “so all you need to do is just add ice and sparkling wine right before you serve. You can enjoy this anywhere you like, from a backyard BBQ to a booze cruise…”
And since much of the punch is low-proof or booze-free, with a good base of tea and comparatively lower-alcohol sake and sparkling wine, it’s not too stiff. “It has complex flavors,” says Urushido, “but it’s still dry and light—so you can have more than one to hydrate happily on a summer day.”
Delicious Summer Punch
For a gin punch, Urushido recommends something “light and floral or soft and vegetal, like Hendricks or Plymouth gin.” For vodka, while a standard bottle will do, Urushido actually opts for Absolut Lime: “It’s a beautiful lime-flavored vodka and works perfectly in this drink.”
Makes 6-8 servings
6 oz. gin or vodka
2 oz. sake
2 oz. ITALICUS Bergamot Liqueur
10 oz. Cold-brewed (sencha) Green Tea
6 oz. Lime Juice
3 tablespoons of sugar
6 oz. Dry Sparkling Wine
Instructions: Combine sugar and lime juice and, stir well to dissolve. Add all the ingredients (except the sparkling wine) to the punch bowl, add ice and stir to combine. Add sparkling wine right before serving. Serve in small cups, and garnish each glass with a lime slice, cucumber slice, and fresh mint.
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