Creator of the passion fruit and Nankai Gold cocktail, the Ougon Sour, Los Angeles-based bartender Gersom Gamez discovered Nankai Shochu during a charity event in May 2022 as the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions softened. Nankai was one of the key sponsors for the Ruby Gala and provided the evening’s cocktails. Gersom was, in his own words, surprised to find that many classic cocktails worked with shochu as a replacement for vodka or whiskey. Thus began his journey into experimenting with shochu and discovering unique cocktail riffs with the increasingly popular Japanese distilled spirit.
What’s your bartending background and how long have you been making drinks?
[Gersom Gamez] I currently work for the Martini Shop, a mobile bartending service. I’ve been learning basic cocktails since 2012. Starting in 2017, my knowledge began to really broaden, but during the COVID lockdown, I really got into the craft. While tending bar for the Los Angeles Athletic Club in the fall of 2022, I learned so much about crafting cocktails that I was tapped by the Pasadena Elk’s Lounge this past spring to flip their dive bar into its current fine cocktail experience.
What’s your approach or philosophy in designing new cocktails?
[Gersom Gamez] Before the presentation of a drink, it must have great flavor and balance! There’s no point in walking around with a cool-looking cocktail in your hand if it doesn’t taste good. (laughs) When I have an idea for a drink, I want my ingredients to cooperate with the spirit. In my drinks, sweet and bitter must go hand in hand. For example, a sweet Breakfast Martini still has the oakiness of the dry Curacao or the Juniper tones from the Dry Gin; these flavors must exist together. And, unlike what you may see on a reality show, I keep garnishes to a minimum. I still want to be creative, but I prefer something simple and practical, instead keeping the focus on balanced flavor.
Do you like to infuse your cultural background or personal story into your cocktail ideas?
[Gersom Gamez] I love to unitize the diversity of growing up in Hollywood, L.A., and the many cultures within for new creations! This melting pot of people, music, and arts is a wonderful source of innovation. The current cocktail scene requires it.
What do you love about bartending and mixology?
[Gersom Gamez] I studied herbs and a variety of ingredients from different parts of the world like China, South America, etc., so I was accustomed to mixing remedies or using them in meals for myself. As a mixologist, I’ve learned to apply those methods to my drinks. I love to share this passion for the spirit of fruits and herbs by incorporating them into drinks for the people I meet while bartending. I especially love introducing people to new drinks.
Shochu is still pretty new to the cocktail scene in America. What do you enjoy about working with shochus like Nankai Gold?
[Gersom Gamez] Nankai Shochu, the vacuum-distilled one, brings a salt tone profile to the cocktail, so I don’t have to add saline solution when working on a new cocktail. It also brings a silky texture to the drink.
Nankai Gold is a “heavy hitting” spirit that has its own uniqueness. This spirit is taking me on a new and exciting road in creating prestigious cocktails.
But really, my favorite part of all the Nankai bottles is the purity they have. There’s nothing artificial about them, and that’s something I always prefer working with, 100%.
Tell us a little about the Ougon Sour made from Nankai Gold and how you came up with this fantastic recipe.
I feel as though Whisky Sours are losing popularity in the bars, so I want to bring them back, but with a twist.
There’s an orange tone in the finish that I get from Nankai Gold to support the passion fruit and the lemon. The lemon and the Shochu’s oakiness keeps the drink sharp against the syrup. This brings all the ingredients together into a lovely mix. And honestly, one drink isn’t enough. It’s not just a fun sour, but is also very refreshing and tasty.
Since I used Nankai Gold, I wanted the word “gold” to be in Japanese so the drinker is aware of the Japanese spirit in this modern sour cocktail. Hence, I called this the Ougon (黄金) Sour, or Golden Sour.
Find more exciting new recipes from Gersom on his Linkedin.
Ougon Sour (Gold Sour)
- 1 Cocktail Shaker
Passion Fruit Syrup
- 14 oz Frozen Passion Fruit Pulp
- 2.5 cups Raw Sugar
- 1.5 oz Nankai Gold
- 1 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
- 0.75 oz Aquafaba
- 3-4 dashes Angostura Bitters
- 0.5 oz Passion Fruit Syrup
- 1 piece Lemon Peel
Passion Fruit Syrup
- Combine frozen passion fruit pulp with sugar in a medium saucepan14 oz Frozen Passion Fruit Pulp, 2.5 cups Raw Sugar
- Simmer until sugar is dissolved
- Let cool and refrigerate.
- Combine Nankai Gold, lemon, passion fruit syrup, and aquafaba in a cocktail shaker.1.5 oz Nankai Gold, 1 oz Fresh Lemon Juice, 0.5 oz Passion Fruit Syrup, 0.75 oz Aquafaba
- Shake vigorously for 10-20 seconds.
- Add ice and shake for 10-20 seconds.
- Strain into cocktail glass and garnish with lemon peel and bitters.1 piece Lemon Peel, 3-4 dashes Angostura Bitters