Sake martinis have been around for a couple of decades now, hitting the cocktail world during both the ‘Tini craze of the ’80s and ’90s and the elevation of sushi culture into the awareness of the broader dining public around the same time (remember how wasabi was on everything?!).
But what’s different with the drink today is how it’s being made, something the good folks at Sen are all too happy to dial into.
Arguably, back in the day there wasn’t a ton of thought put into the drink; sake as a beverage was still pretty novel and sequestered, so the ubiquitous sake-vodka combo was just that: simple. Perhaps the concept was a way to lure martini-happy consumers to try the brewed Japanese beverage in something other than a warm format. Indeed, the scuttlebutt is it was created during the 1964 World’s Fair by a Japanese-American chef to serve to the masses at the international event.
At Sen, the carefully nuanced selection of sake clues you into the notion that brother owners Jesse and Tora Matsuoka care about the beverage’s often misunderstood rep outside of Japan. And the drink, while maintaining its simple origins, takes the delicacy and wide variety of flavor profiles available into consideration.
Here, they use Katana Junmai Ginjo (those latter words have to do with the key component in sake—how finely polished the outer shell of the rice grain is) from Shizuoka Prefecture on the Pacific Coast of Japan. Smartly combined with the gently citrusy and floral Suntory Haku vodka and a little bit of pureed cucumber (and garnished with the now-traditional cucumber slice, of course), it’s delicate and refreshing, and an oh-so lovely start to an evening.
You’d think they named it the Katana-tini for the place where the sake is made, but you’d be only half correct. Says restaurant manager Jessica Miranda: “We have recently changed the name from Sake Martini to Katana-tini to honor Tora’s baby girl, Katana.” Cheers, little one.
- 2 oz Katana Junmai Ginjo sake
- 2 oz Haku vodka
- 1/2 oz pureed English cucumber