Earlier this week I brought down the judgment hammer on myself about O-Ku, a sushi joint in town that I’d pre-judged for years without actually trying it. Lucky for me, the folks at O-Ku didn’t hold it against me, and last month I visited Lindsay Ranes, the chief mixologist at O-Ku, to get a read on their drink menu for spring. On my first visit there, the hubby and I were really impressed with the use of Asian ingredients in their cocktails that seemed to fit the cuisine of O-Ku without being too fussy or overdone.
Lindsay introduced me to the Shogun, one of their most popular cocktails, which blends together a delicious fresh lemon balm infused agave nectar, basil, lemon juice and Hendricks gin, a rose and cucumber infused gin. The blend of these ingredients results in a refreshing cocktail that tastes like spring and feels like summer (all warm and glowy, if you know what I mean).
The drink is also amazingly simple to make, although when I tried to test O-Ku’s recipe at home, I couldn’t find any grocery stores carrying fresh lemon balm to make the infused agave nectar. I researched the flavor profiles of lemon balm and decided that the closest, more widely-available approximation for the average home mixologist would be using fresh lemongrass instead. I tested various lengths of time for letting the lemongrass infuse in the agave nectar and found that at least 6 hours is necessary to really let the flavors from the lemongrass impart into the agave. Overnight is even better.
After you’ve infused your agave nectar, the rest of the steps are simple: muddle a shot of agave, a shot freshly squeezed lemon juice and 3-5 fresh basil leaves together. Add a shot of Hendricks with a splash of soda water and ice to a cocktail shaker and work your magic.
The full recipe follows after the jump. I’ll also be featuring this recipe on Charleston Grit sometime in the next week, so check me out there, too!
PS – the best part of cocktail recipe testing is the tasting. Oh, my, the tasting.
- For the lemongrass infused agave
- 2 cups agave nectar
- 2-3 stalks fresh lemongrass
- For the cocktails
- 1 shot (1.5 oz) lemongrass infused agave nectar
- 1 shot (1.5 oz) lemon juice
- 3-5 fresh basil leaves
- 1 shot (1.5 oz) Hendricks gin
- Ice and soda water, to taste
- To make the agave, bring agave nectar to a simmer over low heat in a small saucepan.
- With the blunt edge of a knife, bruise lemongrass (pound it) to bring out the fragrance and add it to the saucepan.
- Allow lemongrass to simmer for 3-5 minutes, then remove from heat and immediately transfer to a non-reactive (heat-resistant plastic or other non-metal) container.
- Let agave nectar rest with lemongrass stalks inside at room temperature for at least 6 hours. After infusing, remove lemongrass and discard.
- Refrigerate agave until ready for use.
- To make the cocktails, combine lemon juice, agave nectar and basil leaves in a glass and muddle together to blend flavors.
- Add muddled mixture to a cocktail shaker with ice and gin.
- Top with a splash of soda water.
- Close cocktail shaker tightly and shake vigorously.
- Strain cocktail and serve immediately over ice.