While seaweed is recognizably associated with sushi, it also works swimmingly in a cocktail shaker.
story by Kelly Magyarics
Nori is the Japanese name for the dark green, paper-thin sheets of edible seaweed that we have become accustomed to seeing in sushi restaurants and snack aisles. It’s made by cultivating species of red algae that grow on nets that farmers set out on the ocean surface. It’s then harvested and shredded and lastly dried via a process similar to making paper. Nori is an integral component to sushi rolls, a light, salty snack on its own, and it can add a unique kick to cocktails.
“Nori is an absolute umami bomb and has very high levels of glutamates (flavor-enhancing compounds found in fermented and aged foods like soy sauce and fermented bean paste), which makes it a strong candidate for infusions and manipulations in cocktails,” touts Jacob Bender, bartender and cocktail engineer at craft cocktail bar The Spotted Owl, in Cleveland, Ohio.
“I’ve found the most profound aspect of incorporating nori was how it enhanced the flavor of the spirits it was infused into,” Bender says. It’s also inexpensive and easy to experiment with. Bender uses nori in spirit infusions, syrups, and in flavored water and calls it “a pretty forgiving ingredient.” While he hasn’t yet come across anything that it really clashes with, he does advise to keep balance in mind. Think of nori in a cocktail like a salted rim on a Margarita, which offsets the tart and tangy lime and melds with the agave notes in the Tequila.
Here are three drinks from The Spotted Owl that will make you a sea-liever:
All recipes and photos courtesy of Jacob Bender.
½ oz. genmaicha tea syrup (see note)
½ oz. rye whiskey
2 oz. nori-infused brandy
½ eyedropper togarashi tincture (see note)
Dash mustard seed-infused apple bitters (see note)
Single malt Scotch whisky, to spritz
Spritz a Glencairn glass with the Scotch and set aside. Add the other ingredients to a mixing glass, add ice and stir 10-12 seconds until well-chilled. Strain into the prepared glass.
For the genmaicha tea syrup:
Combine 2 parts freshly brewed genmaicha tea with 1 part cane syrup in a Vitamix aeration chamber, stove top or with a sous vide circulator. Store the syrup in the refrigerator.
For the nori-infused brandy:
Combine 14 grams nori and 500 ml of brandy in a nonreactive container and infuse for 3 hours. Strain out nori and discard; bottle and refrigerate the brandy.
For the togarashi tincture:
Combine 1 part togarashi with 2 parts high proof neutral grain spirit and let steep for 24 hours. Strain through a wet food service cloth and bottle.
For the mustard seed-infused apple bitters:
Combine 4 oz. toasted mustard seeds with 8 oz. apple bitters and let steep for 36 hours. Strain through a wet food service cloth and bottle.
¼ oz. lemon juice
1 oz. yuzu syrup (see note)
1 oz. nori water (see note)
1 ½ oz. blanco tequila
3 dashes orange bitters
Soda, to top
Nori clipped to the side of the glass, to garnish
Build the drink in a highball glass over ice, stir to incorporate and top with soda. Garnish with the nori clipped to the side of the glass.
For the yuzu syrup:
Combine 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and then simmer until sugar dissolves. Remove it from the heat and let cool. Add 1 ½ cups fresh yuzu juice, stir, bottle, and refrigerate.
For the nori water:
Combine ½ oz. nori with 14 oz. water and let steep for 3 hours. Strain out nori and discard. Bottle and refrigerate.
Nori Pisco Sour
¼ oz. lime juice
¼ oz. key lime juice
¼ oz. demerara or cane simple syrup
¼ oz. broiled pineapple cane syrup (see note)
¼ oz. nori syrup (see note)
1 ½ oz. nori-infused pisco (see note)
½ oz. egg white
Peruvian Amaro Bitters, for garnish
Dry-cured egg yolk, for garnish
Add all ingredients except garnishes to a cocktail shaker and dry shake without ice. Add ice, shake again until well-chilled and fine strain into a pony glass. Garnish with the bitters and grated egg yolk.
For the broiled pineapple cane syrup:
Peel and core one whole pineapple and then cut into ½ inch slices. Sprinkle with demerara or brown sugar and broil until caramelized. Let cool. Combine 1 ½ cup water and 1 cup cane sugar in a saucepan, bring to a boil until sugar dissolves. Remove it from the heat and add 1 cup chopped broiled pineapple. Steep for 20 minutes or until desired flavor is achieved, then strain out solids and store syrup in the refrigerator.
For the nori syrup:
Combine ½ oz. nori with 14 oz. water, let steep for 3 hours and strain out solids. Combine equal parts nori-water and cane sugar in a Vitamix aeration chamber, stove top or with a sous vide circulator. Bottle and refrigerate.
For the nori-infused pisco:
Combine 14 grams nori with 500 ml Macchu Pisco in a nonreactive container and infuse for 3 hours. Strain out the nori and discard. Bottle and refrigerate.