January: the month of festive comedowns, fleeting resolutions and forsaken virtuous intentions. There are only two ways of battling through its post-party, apocalyptic dark days: hunker down beneath the duvet and closing your eyes until February comes lumbering along; or feign ignorance, pretend it’s still December and carry on the party.
Nico Peratinos of London cocktail bar Aqua Spirit firmly advocates for the latter. And his Japanese-influenced take on a champagne cocktail, the Japanese 75, is a toothsome way to use up any leftover (or freshly purchased, no judgement here) bottles of seasonal bubbles lurking in the back of the fridge.
The inspiration behind Peratinos’ blend of candied sake, dizzying absinthe and effervescent champers is the classic French 75, a bracing concoction heavy on gin, lemon juice, sugar and, of course, champagne. Supposedly named for the 75mm M1897 gun, a linchpin of the French field artillery in World War One, it packs a punch of equal calibre. Peratinos’ version may draw on a now pacifist nation, but it lacks none of the firepower.
To avoid overcomplicating things, it’s a drink of straight swaps. “Umeshu sake replaces the gin, yuzu sake replaces the lemon and sugar and the absinthe gives it an extra whack,” says Peratinos. Umeshu sake is a popular Japanese spirit, made from steeping ume fruits in alcohol and sugar, and its unique sweet-sour flavour makes it the perfect accompaniment to citrusy cava. Yuzu sake, a bittersweet liqueur, adds a more savoury dimension and stops the drink being too cloying. Although – be warned – it will also make you want another.
“I’m not a big fan of large quantities of absinthe in cocktails, but I really like when it is used in small amounts,” says Peratinos. “It doesn’t affect the flavour, but it adds an amazing aroma.”
And what better way to stave off the January blues than to paste a picture of Mount Fiji to your wall, sit back, and bask in the spirituous aromas of absinthe and the party-never-stops bubbles. As they toast in Tokyo – kanpai!
The Japanese 75 (Serves 2)
50ml umeshu sake
50ml of yuzu sake
6 drops absinthe
Top up with cava, to taste
Chilled champagne flute, vintage champagne saucer or coupe.
- Add the umeshu sake and yuzu sake to a chilled flute, vintage champagne saucer or coupe.
- Using a pipette, add six drops of absinthe to the glass.
- Using a cocktail stirrer, give the drink a little swirl.
- Top each glass up to the rim with cava and serve immediately.
From delicious to stratospheric…
“This cocktail tastes best when ice cold, so make sure you chill your glasses in plenty of time.”
“Pernod absinthe is my favourite. For the bubbles, Cava Torre del Gall is a light and crisp choice, with some citrus notes that cut into the sweetness of the umeshu sake. This brings balance to the drink.”