Salted Plum Haamonii Shochu Cocktail Recipe

Salted Plum Cocktail

It takes a masterful preparation of an ingredient to make a person forget their aversions. Just ask any mom how they get their kids to eat Brussels sprouts or how a great chef can make a fearful diner order the calf’s brain ravioli and they’ll be sure to tell you the answer: technique.

Why individuals steer clear of specific ingredients are varied—some object to texture, flavor, scent, sense memories, allergies and sometimes even ethical issues come into play. As a voracious eater, there are few things I avoid. The smell of truffle oil makes my skin crawl. Sadly, I’m allergic to blue cheese. Say the word soju and my brain reflexively throbs with the memory of a two-day hangover that I almost didn’t recover from.

So when I tell you that I recently created a delicious cocktail for a delightful new artisan shochu (the Japanese version of soju), I offer positive proof that great technique really can reshape a culinary opinion.

How I came to try Haamonii Shochu

Had it not been for the fact that my husband came home with two free sample bottles of Haamonii Shochu (pronounced show-chew), I probably would have never tried the Japanese beverage. But thanks to Hans’ eager assurances that Haamonii Shochu was nothing like the cheap plonk that ruined me one night a long time ago, I got up the courage to ignore my aversion to soju and try something special.

Tasting Haamonii Shochu

I poured myself a tiny splash of the Haamonii Shochu and edged my nose over the glass. I was surprised by the delicate floral and citrus notes of the Haamonii. Based on my previous experience with soju, I never expected to smell fresh citrus blossoms and sweet rice. My curiosity was peaked enough to ignore my jaded past with shochu’s Korean cousin and take a taste.

Once past my hesitant lips, the Lemon Haamonii Shochu offered a hint of sweetness and a kiss of citrus. The shochu was sophisticated and clean and didn’t offer hard alcohol’s harsh heat. Within moments of enjoying the nuanced flavors of the shochu, I was dreaming up cocktails.

Shochu Convert

Crafted by San Francisco-based James Key Lim and his wife, the artisan shochu makers set out to create an ultra-premium shochu that was low in alcohol and smooth in taste. The result is America’s first award winning shochu, an elegant, 22 percent alcohol drink that is made with purified water and a blend of grains that can be enjoyed on its own or mixed. According to James Key Lim, Haamonii is “four column distilled” and triple filtered for extra purity.

Called soju in Korea and shochu in Japan, this clear spirit is one of the most popular distilled spirits in the world–enjoyed straight, on the rocks, mixed with hot or cold water, tea, or in mixed drinks. Shochu is traditionally made from grains (rice and barley) and starches (such as potatoes). In addition to its smooth flavor and versatility, shochu possesses another great virtue; it is low in calories.

Haamonii Shochu and a shoe design from Apere Japan

I visited an event celebrating a Japanese shoe designer Hiromi Tatsuta that offered guests Haamonii Citrus mixed with green tea or apple juice and handmade sushi rolls from San Shi Go. Usually a fan of Japanese sake with my sushi, I was impressed by the delicate nature of the shochu and how it paired well with the raw fish and sweet sushi rice. Like sushi, the well-made shochu was refreshing and didn’t weigh down my palate with aggressive flavors. Unlike a mixed drink, the shochu didn’t deaden my tastebuds with numbing alcohol.

Sour plums at the Hollywood Farmers' Market

With my recent conversion to shochu at the forefront brain, I visited the Hollywood Farmers market. Spring citrus, cherries and stone fruits peaked my interest as possible ingredients for my home’s larder. But it was a bunch of lemon verbena and tart and crunchy sour plums that made me want to create a cocktail for the Lemon Haamonii shochu waiting for me back home.

The gentle acidity of the sour plums and refreshing perfume of the lemon verbena do not overpower the delicate sweetness and aromatics of the lemon shochu. The spicy salted rim on the glass is just the kick the drink needs to have you tapping your toes with happiness.

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Salted Plum Shochu Cocktail
Makes one drink

Kosher salt and cayenne pepper mixture (4 tbsp kosher salt to 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper)
2 lemon verbena leaves (one for muddling, one for garnish)
4 small sour plums (sliced and without seeds)
1 oz fresh lemon juice
1 lemon wedge
1 tsp simple syrup
3 oz lemon (or regular) Haamonii Shochu
ice

Place the kosher salt/cayenne pepper mixture on a plate. Wipe the outer edge of the cocktail glass with the juicy side of the lemon wedge. Run the wet edge of the glass in the spicy salt to create an even rim.

Muddle a single verbena leaf in a clean cocktail shaker. Add the sliced sour plums and continue muddling until most of the fruit’s juice is released into the glass. Add simple syrup, shochu and fill shaker with ice. Shake well. Add mixed cocktail to salt-rimmed glass. Top with fresh verbena. Serve immediately.

Where to find Haamonii

If you want to try Haamonii Shochu currently is available on line at K&L for $29.99 and at dandm.com. Also available at some restaurants and bars.

9 comments

  1. Anjali

    That cocktail sounds fantastic. Coincidentally, I just bought some green plums at the farmers’ market and mixed it up with sugar and (much more plonk-like) soju to make a batch of homemade umeshu. Here’s the recipe.

    I have to wait 3 months before it’s ready though, so I may have to whip up a few of these cocktails in the meantime!

  2. Leah

    Really. You need to bring me one of those. My momentum is fading and that sounds delicious. Beautiful, fluid writing Brooke and a super-cool use of those sour plums. Don’t be surprised if this turns up on a cocktail list somewhere.

  3. Food, she thought.

    That sounds amazing. Can you describe the flavors? I have a large group of cocktail thirsty friends coming to town this weekend and they are always looking to me for a new innovation. I was thinking of hitting up the Ho’wood Farmers’ Market this weekend anyway.

  4. Diana

    That cocktail sounds like the perfect antidote to a hot summer day. Delicious!

    It's so true how a different preparation or clever sell by a server can get one to change his/her mind about something. I used to have a strong aversion to runny eggs, but after a recent experience with the green eggs & ham at Huckleberry, I'm a runny egg convert! I can't wait to try the famous egg ravioli at Mozza now!

  5. white on rice couple

    The photographs are gorgeous!! This cocktail looks fabulous, so perfect for summer. I love the brilliant salty/umami-sh flair from the salted plum.
    I’m seriously thirsty. I shall be ordering this from someone very, very soon….

  6. Mark Bitterman

    So beautiful, but but not take this drink to its logical, and irresistible limit? Try it with Maboroshi Plum salt from Japan, a beautifully pink salt from Japan made by evaporating a beautiful deep sea salt (hundreds of times more magnesium, calcium, potassium, etc that industrial Kosher salt) evaporated with the naturally extracted juices of plum! Tart, complex, aromatic, and perfect for this cocktail. http://www.atthemeadow.com/shop/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=672

  7. IntooDeep

    Soju cocktails have been my new favorite thing lately. I found a bunch of delicious recipes on the Team TY KU website. One of my favorites is 1.5 oz. TY KU Soju
    .5 oz. Pomegranate Liqueur
    2 oz. Grapefruit Juice
    Splash of Champagne
    Sprig of Mint
    It sounds like a lot but it is super easy to make and seriously the best drink I have had in a while! It is a MUST try

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