Kappa Maki (Cucumber Wasabi Cocktail)
- Cocktail Shaker
- 2 oz Nankai Shochu
- 2 oz Cucumber Juice Fresh pressed is best
- 0.5 oz Fresh Lime Juice
- 0.75 oz Chareau Aloe Liqueur
- 1 oz Soda Water
- 1-2 pinches Wasabi Salt Kinjirushi Brand
- 0.75 oz Kokuto Syrup Simple Syrup is fine too
- ½ cup Kokuto Sugar
- ½ cup Raw Sugar
- 1 cup Water
- Boil kokuto, raw sugar and water for 4 min.
- Let cool. Refrigerate to use for 10-14 days.
- Combine Nankai, cucumber, lime, syrup, aloe liqueur and ice in shaker.
- Shake well to chill.
- Strain into Collins glass over ice.
- Top with soda water.
- Add pinches of wasabi salt over top.
Our good friend Esteban De Luna developed this cucumber wasabi cocktail during a podcast recording we did, along with his partner Felicity Gibbs. (We’ll link it here when it becomes available.) We often riff on cocktails when we get together, and this was a result that triggered many memories for me. The cucumber, wasabi and brown rice notes immediately conjured an image of a cucumber roll, otherwise known as a “kappa maki” (河童巻) in Japanese. And it immediately became special to me.
Cucumber Wasabi: An Emotional Cocktail
Growing up as a Japanese-American, eating sushi was a special treat. But being Japanese doesn’t mean that raw fish doesn’t freak you out the first time you face it, especially when you become old enough to question your food. For myself, and perhaps many others, the cucumber roll was something I could safely retreat to whenever my mother took us to a sushi restaurant. It wasn’t long before I was scarfing down tuna and yellowfin nigiri, but the kappa maki remained a comfort food. Interestingly, I couldn’t handle the nose-splitting spiciness of wasabi when I was young, but it is the wasabi with the cucumber juice that makes this cocktail taste like sushi.
The Flavor Bible delves into the concept of the emotional aspects to cooking. The connection to the emotional realm is why your mother’s cooking might satisfy you more than a Michelin-starred meal. Hence, there are flavor profiles that evoke powerful feelings and memories, instantly drawing you to a dish or a drink. I have many of those, like this cucumber wasabi cocktail or the Chili Mango, which reminds me of the candies I would buy from the corner market on my way home from school.
Nankai Shochu with Cucumber and Wasabi
The Kappa Maki, or Cucumber Wasabi Cocktail, works because its components balance each other. Cucumber, lime, and wasabi all complement the natural umami and sweetness of Nankai Shochu. The bittersweet notes of the aloe liqueur also adds a sense of dryness to tie it all together.
This cocktail is perfect for pairing with umami-rich foods, and in particular with sushi.