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Hasegawa Happy Hour Cocktail Napkins

Hasegawa Happy Hour custom napkins

Hasegawa Happy Hour got an upgrade this Christmas! My incredibly talented coworker, Alicia, designed these mid-century style cocktail napkins for us. Aren’t they fantastic? We kind of fell off the Hasegawa Happy Hour wagon last year and didn’t invite as many people over to drink with us, but we’d like to start things up again this year. I think we need to menu plan and jump right in for January. (Because I love a good theme party!) Who’s in?

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Hasegawa Happy Hour: Mixology in Tokyo

IMG_3542 Craft cocktails are still a new thing in Tokyo. Most bars are still the izakaya style where copious amounts of beer and simple cocktails are served alongside fried foods, meat, and noodles. There are only a handful of actual cocktail bars in Tokyo, four or five mixologists are paving the way in their own little pockets of the city. I found this article in Time Out Tokyo and added a visit to one of these cocktail bars to our must-do list. IMG_3544We decided to go to Codename Mixology since it’s only a few steps away from Tokyo Station and its wonderfully stocked post office. The cocktails here are developed in a “lab” and using unique combinations and uniquely developed liquors. They offer a whole menu of cheese-infused martinis, foie gras vodka, and gins distilled with hinoki (Japanese cedar), blue cheese, and other unusual flavors. We had read about the Tomato Cocktail and the Tom Yum Cooler in the article and decided to start with those. The tomato cocktail (pictured above) was lovely. It was garnished with drops of olive oil and a dried tomato and had a subtle tomato flavor. The Tom Yum Cooler stole the show though. I’m not a huge fan of Tom Yum soup, but the flavors in the cooler were exploding! Lime, balsamic vinegar, and tamarind–it was at once sweet and savory and tart.

Our bartender, Ohba-san let us taste some of the weird gins and told us about the behind-the-scenes development of the cocktails. IMG_3545 Even though we had planned to drink just one cocktail, we decided to go upstairs to Codename Mixology Laboratory, a prohibition themed speakeasy. Ohba-san walked us upstairs, punched in the code, and introduced us to the bartender upstairs. Everyone else who entered the Laboratory after us knew the code. It felt like a secret society in there! IMG_3547Mixology Laboratory pizzaIMG_3550 IMG_3552 The menu upstairs was very similar to the menu downstairs, but the atmosphere felt more dark and moody. We ordered a pizza–which was so good! One half was Margherita and the other was prosciutto and arugula. We ordered specialized versions of familiar drinks, a Manhattan and I can’t remember what Naoto had. (Sorry!) There was less “showmanship” upstairs, but the presentation of the cocktails was superb. Both of ours were served in pewter goblets with matching coasters.

I made a quick little video so you can hear the music and the quiet chatter at the bar. The 1930s and 40s music really set the tone in the room. IMG_3558IMG_3564After dinner, we ventured back downstairs for another drink. Watching Ohba-san masterfully create these crazy cocktails was well worth the bar tab! IMG_3572 IMG_3574To end the night, I had a Smoked Negroni and Naoto had a Peach Wasabi Martini. (Truth be told, I had ordered the martini, but I liked the Negroni better, so we switched.) At first the Negroni seemed like just an average Negroni, but the smoky finish made it special. And Naoto’s martini was fruity with a slow burn from the wasabi vodka…delicious!

We are looking forward to exploring more craft cocktail bars on our next trip!

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Hasegawa Happy Hour at the Suzukis

Hasegawa Happy Hour at the Suzukis, yuzu umeshuDuring our stay in Tokyo we were lucky enough to have happy hour with Jess and her family. We drank yuzu umeshu (plum wine) cocktails and Jess made sukiyaki. Sukiyaki, made at the table in a Japanese hot pot, usually consists of meat and vegetables cooked in a broth of soy sauce, mirin, and sugar. Hasegawa Happy Hour at the Suzukis, sukiyakiHasegawa Happy Hour at the Suzukis, sukiyakiJess sliced up the vegetables and presented them beautifully, in true Japanese fashion. We had two types of beef, tofu, cabbage, leeks, burdock, two kinds of mushrooms, and noodles in our sukiyaki. Hasegawa Happy Hour at the Suzukis, sukiyakiJess browned the meat a bit first (on a pile of leeks!) Hasegawa Happy Hour at the Suzukis, sukiyakiAnd then she added the broth to finish cooking the meat. Hasegawa Happy Hour at the Suzukis, sukiyakiAnd then Jess removed the meat to make room for the pile of vegetables and noodles. Hasegawa Happy Hour at the Suzukis, sukiyakiMmmm…it was delicious. The beef was perfectly seasoned by the slightly sweet broth and the vegetables’s textures were the perfect complement. Naoto and I think a nabe pot and a table-top burner is in our future. I definitely think it would be a fun cold-weather activity with friends!

And, to add a little excitement to the evening, there was a sizable earthquake (7.8) that night off the coast of Japan! It was a little bit scary because it was so much more powerful and lasted a lot longer than the other tiny earthquake I’d experienced in Japan before. I just kept looking at Jess to see if she had any panic in her eyes. (She didn’t and she calmly turned off the burner in case things did get any scarier!) We turned on the TV to see that the subways had been briefly halted, but by the time Naoto and I left, everything was up and running like nothing had happened.


Thanks for being such great hosts, Jess, Keiichi and Ethan!

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Hasegawa Happy Hour: Summer Solstice Edition

summer solstice Hasegawa Happy Hour, #hasegawahappyhourNaoto and I had a little party for two to celebrate the summer solstice on Sunday. It was a good chance to eat on the balcony together for the first time this season and to recreate one of my favorite new drinks from Japan, the Spumoni Cocktail. I ordered a Spumoni during our anniversary dinner and fell in love, ordering it at almost every izakaya after that. Campari, grapefruit juice and tonic are the only three ingredients, so it’s nicely bitter and really refreshing for summer. #hasegawahappyhour summer solstice editionFor dinner, we made steak salads (and sadly had to move to wine because we finished off the Campari!) We grilled a steak on our stove and added it to a bed of lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, eggs, avocado, and goat cheese. It was so delicious and a great way to make an expensive steak feed both of us.

Spumoni Cocktail 

1.5 oz Campari

2 oz freshly squeezed grapefruit juice (Bottled wouldn’t be horrible here, especially if you like a sweeter cocktail.)

2 oz tonic water (I’m not a huge fan of tonic, but I like it in this. If you hate tonic, club soda could be substituted for a slightly less bitter flavor.)

orange wedge for garnish

Add Campari and grapefruit juice to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until fully chilled. Pour in rocks glass with fresh ice. Top with tonic and garnish with an orange wedge. Enjoy on the balcony as you toast the summer season.

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Hasegawa Happy Hour: Tomi Fujiyama Edition

Hasegawa Happy Hour, Tomi Fujiyama edition, old fashioneds, pimento cheeseAt the end of April, Tomi Fujiyama was invited back to play at the Grand Ole Opry. Naoto and I have been following along with Tomi’s story since we saw the Made In Japan movie last month, so we were really excited to listen to her perform live on the radio. Her performance luckily fell on Hasegawa Happy Hour night, so we invited two special guests and served a sort of southern-style meal. (Thanks for joining us, James and Karen!) 

I made Old Fashioneds and pimento cheese for the happy hour portion of the evening. We listened online to the entire show. Karen said it felt like an old-timey evening with a family sitting around the radio. I think we may need to look into having more musically themed HHHs in the future. Hasegawa Happy Hour, Tomi Fujiyama edition, old fashioneds, meatloaf, baked beans, green beansFor dinner, I made turkey meatloaf, baked beans, and green beans. Tomi came on at the very end of the show and she sang her favorite song, Tennessee Waltz. It was lovely and sad (Seriously, don’t listen to the song if you’re feeling melancholy!) and totally worth listening to the entire night for Tomi’s dream moment.

(This video is from 2012, but it will give you an idea of how Tomi sounds.)

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Hasegawa Happy Hour Menu

Hasegawa Happy Hour menu coverIn a sign that I *may* have too much time on my hands (or that I was avoiding doing something productive), I typed up a menu for our Hasegawa Happy Hours. And when I say “typed” I mean typed on the typewriter because that’s how I roll. I know a menu seems weird and excessive, but honestly, if I didn’t have a set cocktail planned for our HHH guests, I was looking through my archives for suggestions. This way, I have all of my favorites in one place. Hasegawa Happy Hour menu openI typed the menu on a piece of 8.5×11 card stock scored and folded the long way. It’s very simply “formatted” since it was done on the typewriter and it’s spring-centric, which means I can type up another one for summer (ooh, for balcony cocktails! I can’t wait!) Hasegawa Happy Hour menu 1I have a section for “Think Spring” cocktails, which are coincidentally all gin-based. (Eagle eyes will notice that I messed up on the Vieux Mot and typed the wrong ingredients. Womp, womp.)Hasegawa Happy Hour menu 2Then there’s a section for “Cozy Nights” that includes mostly whiskey cocktails, perfect for right about now when it’s damp and cold outside. Hasegawa Happy Hour menu 4In the “Deliciously Bitter” section, I have a small list of bitter cocktails. I’ve added several bitter liqueurs to my collection this year and these four are tasty winners. Hasegawa Happy Hour menu 3And, on a removable tiny business card, I typed up two Hasegawa originals, the CAP Cocktail and Pining for the Queen. It’s harder to keep those ingredients readily on hand around here, so I like to be able to remove the card if we don’t have any pomegranate juice or rosemary in the house.

Hasegawa Happy Hour, sushi nightWe tested the menu out last weekend when we had friends over for a little sushi-making party. It worked like a charm!

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Hasegawa Happy Hour – Breakfast Edition

cocktail, scrappy's bitters, lavender bitters, Hasegawa happy hourLately Naoto has been surprising me with new types of bitters for my liquor collection. It’s a nice treat because it forces me to look up new cocktail recipes and because the bottles are small–our liquor cabinet and bar carts are overflowing but these tiny bottles tuck into small spaces perfectly! Last week he brought home Scrappy’s Lavender Bitters which led me to the Scrappy’s Bitters website. They feature loads of cocktails highlighting their different bitters. The Dr. Girlfriend caught my eye because it included grapefruit juice, gin, Aperol, and St. Germaine. I made a frittata for dinner and those cocktail ingredients seemed kind of breakfast-y to me. The cocktail was delicious–citrusy and floral and not very strong–definitely a good brunch cocktail. leanring japaneseWe snacked on Beer Nuts while the frittata was baking. Have you ever tried Beer Nuts?  They were a sweet and salty snack before sweet and salty snacks were a thing and we used to eat them when I was growing up. They’re a Central Illinois thing, maybe? Naoto also helped me study some Japanese. (I can’t even explain to you how bad I am…and I definitely can’t explain how bad I am in Japanese!)

Dr. Girlfriend (created by Phil Thompson of Tavern Law & found via Scrappy’s Bitters)

1 1/4 oz gin

1/2 oz Aperol

1/2 oz St. Germaine

3/4 oz grapefruit juice (freshly squeezed!)

1/2 oz lemon juice (freshly squeezed!)

1-3 dashes of lavender bitters (We liked it with a few extra dashes of bitters!)

Shake ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Pour into a cocktail glass and enjoy while studying Japanese.



* “Kampai” is the Japanese word for “Cheers”…I’ve got the cocktail words down pat!




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Hasegawa Happy Hour – Valentine Edition

Sweet Manhattans, Hasegawa Happy HourFor Valentine’s Day, Naoto went to Freddy’s and picked up a dozen meatballs and we stayed in and hosted a Hasegawa Happy Hour. I made “Sweetheart Manhattans” and we ate spaghetti and meatballs, salad, cookies, and gelato…it was quite a night.

I’m a big fan of Leopold Brothers Michigan Tart Cherry Liqueur and I’m happy to have a bottle back in my arsenal again. So I made up a cocktail that is not as good as my favorite cocktail at Amelia’s, but comes pretty close. I named it the Sweetheart Manhattan, but it’s really not too sweet…it’s just filled with love.

Sweetheart Manhattans

2 oz rye whiskey

1/2 oz sweet vermouth

1/2 oz cherry liqueur

dash of orange bitters

Stir all ingredients with ice. Strain into cocktail glasses and garnish with a Luxardo cherry. Enjoy with friends on Valentine’s Day, or any other day. vintage candle holders, valentine tulipsCocktails are better than flowers anyway…

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Scenes from Hasegawa Happy Hours-June Edition

fresh radishes, Hasegawa Happy HourJune is in the books and another month of Hasegawa Happy Hours is behind us. We only had three happy hours but each one was good fun…quality over quantity, right?

To start, we invited our friends Laura and Scott over for mojitos. We know Laura through the community garden, so we met them at the garden and showed off our plots and talked about vegetables. Then we all came back and enjoyed Laura’s first radish harvest and other snacks. We made mojitos with Laura’s mint (my balcony mint wasn’t big enough at the time) and sat outside on the balcony.
Hasegawa Happy HourThe next week the temperatures dropped and the cooler weather called for a cozy cocktail. I found a recipe for Pendergast cocktails (bourbon, Benedictine, vermouth and bitters) and they fit the bill. They are a new favorite, more fitting for the fall and winter though under normal circumstances. Hasegawa Happy HourFinally, last week when Naoto got home, I made us Mai Tais…real Mai Tais, not the sickly sweet ones tiki bars try to pass off as cocktails. The real version isn’t sweet at all, it’s more tart and rummy with a hint of almond. I used this Mai Tai recipe from the New York Times. There are a few different versions of “original Mai Tai recipes” but this one used both dark and light rums and it was well-balanced, so tropical and so delicious.

For the Mai Tais (and some other cocktails I’ve been researching), I made my own orgeat syrup. There are slightly more complicated recipes for making your own orgeat syrup, but most of them made too much for my use. It only lasts a couple of weeks in the refrigerator and I didn’t want to waste anything, so I found this easy orgeat recipe from Craft Cocktails at Home and tried it instead. It worked like a dream and tasted delicious. I’d like to try making my own the “hard way” with whole almonds eventually, but to start, the Craft Cocktails at Home recipe is easy experimentation.

Easy Orgeat Syrup (barely modified from Craft Cocktails at Home)

6.5 ounces plain almond milk (Pacific brand is recommended, and brand matters. See Craft Cocktails at Home for more details.)

~6 tablespoons sugar

1/8 teaspoon (or 8 drops) almond extract

1/16 teaspoon (or 4 drops) orange blossom water

Add ingredients to a jar with a tight fitting lid. It works best if the almond milk is at room temperature (as in, a new carton fresh from the grocery store) so the sugar dissolves easily. Shake vigorously to combine and dissolve the sugar. Mine kept in the refrigerator for a little over two weeks without any problems.

You can use orgeat syrup in many different cocktails. So far I’ve made Mai Tais and Japanese cocktails and I have a few more up my sleeve in July.

For now, I’m trying to dream up something festive for Independence Day on Friday.

For more Hasegawa Happy Hours, go here.

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Scenes From Hasegawa Happy Hours-May Edition

hasegawa happy hourHasegawa Happy Hours are still happening, but I need to get back into making them happen in a big way. And documenting the happenings better…like when we have special guests, getting a good picture of all of us together. (Special guests, you’ve been warned.) Hopefully I can find a good groove this summer.

So in May, we hosted our special guest James. We had so much fun with him, even though I only have a picture of the meat and cheese and roasted grapes to prove it. We made the Pining for the Queen cocktail for James and it was a big hit. hasegawa happy hourI also finally shared my Barrel Aged Martinez with Naoto. I have to say it was really awesome and easy to have a ready-made cocktail on hand. No measuring needed. We also had roasted vegetables and frozen appetizers this night, so it just may have been the laziest HHH ever! hasegawa happy hourIn mid-May, Naoto brought home a new bourbon for me to try and I found a new favorite website. I found the recipe for a Fancy Free cocktail there and it was a hit. It’s similar to an Old Fashioned but the Luxardo replaces the sugar and the fruit.  The best part of the Fancy Free for me is that it is the cocktail version of those quick meals you can make from your pantry. All of the ingredients are bar staples (bourbon, Luxardo, Angostura bitters and orange bitters)…there is no need for citrus (unless you count the garnish) or herbs or making simple syrup. You can enjoy this one without going to the grocery store. hasegawa happy hourThe Fancy Frees were our first official HHH cocktails enjoyed on the balcony and our first enjoyed with our new cocktail napkins from Marissahasegawa happy hourAnd for our final May happy hour, I made Kentucky Monks, which had the most ingredients ever in a cocktail. It was really refreshing and light for a bourbon cocktail–a good one for summer afternoons.

Cheers to June and more cocktails, more evenings with friends and more Hasegawa Happy Hours!

For more Hasegawa Happy Hour posts, go here.