Category Archives: cocktails

Okinawa Part 3: Orion Beer

This day was the highlight of Naoto’s trip, can you tell? It’s called Orion Happy Park for a reason! We were scheduled for the first tour of the day and we totally lucked out–we were the only ones on our tour! We felt so fortunate, as the next tour was packed. Before going on the tour, we spent some time in the little Orion museum. I love looking at old packaging, so it was neat to see how the Orion cans and bottles have changed over the years. There is nothing better than a retro label–I especially loved the cherry blossom editions. We started by learning about the grains used in Orion beer. Naoto was a very involved student, asking a lot of questions of our personal tour guide.

We learned a little bit about the science behind the brewing process, like when the mixture actually becomes alcohol. This display shows how many cans Orion fills in one minute. Isn’t that crazy?!

The bottling and canning processes were so interesting. I’ve been on a few brewery tours and I always love watching the bottles get filled and topped and labeled. This part made me so happy and also felt so Japan. The floor of the factory is blue, like the ocean. The crane is pink, the color of coral. And the walls are painted the color of the sand. The factory celebrates Okinawa in every way. 
After the tour, we were able to go to the tasting room to enjoy a sample. I don’t drink beer, but they had a delicious bottled tea. Oh and the ORION SNACKS!! It’s peanuts and rice crackery things covered in a mix of almond cheese, turmeric, curry, chili, onion, and garlic powders, paprika, pepper, soy sauce, beer yeast, sugar. They are so crunchy and good. I’m not a huge curry person, but these are just a perfect little drinking snack. We bought a big bag of them in the little snack-sized portions like you see above. We’re almost done with them and we’ve been looking for more here in the US to no avail. Sigh…guess we’ll have to go back to Japan someday for more. I think Naoto would toast to that!

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Spritzers with Pritzker

Last month, I heard this story on NPR about “Beers with Beshear,” a happy hour centered around Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear’s daily Covid-19 briefings. So I decided to modify it for my own governor’s briefings and call it “Spritzers with Pritzker” or since it’s Twitter #spritzerswithPritzker.

On March 26, at 2:30pm, I whipped up a Campari Spritz for the Governor’s briefing. Every day since then, I’ve made some sort of Spritz cocktail (both alcoholic and spirit-free.) It’s given me something light to do every day, something to look forward to. It’s been nice to have a little routine that is forcing me to look at recipes and make something every day. Spritzes are perfect afternoon drinks because they typically have a low alcohol content and are apertifs, before-meal drinks that stimulate the appetite.

Yesterday, much to my shock, the governor gave me a shout-out at the beginning of his briefing! I couldn’t believe it! Because of a mix-up last summer where a local politician thought I was Adam (because my handle is @adamihasegawa,) I had my bio name written out as Adam I. Hasegawa, so the governor and everyone else thought I was a guy. (Since then, I’ve changed my name to #spritzerswithPritzker to stop the confusion.) But I came clean to WTTW when they interviewed me for this article. It’s been a fun couple of days chatting about cocktails and laughing a lot. 

So the pressure is on to keep up my project! I decided to create a page here on the site where I can share all the recipes all in one place and for those who aren’t on Twitter or Instagram and may want to join in. (The intro part is pretty much just this post repeated.) I highly recommend a little afternoon break, whether it’s a cup of tea, or a cocktail, or some fancy water. These are trying times and we need to take care of ourselves and of each other.

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Okinawa Part 1: Tourists & Taco Rice

hasegawa happy hour, okinawa We always take a little side trip away from Tokyo when we visit Japan and this year, our trip was to Okinawa. Okinawa is a small island in southern Japan. It really felt so much like Hawaii to me! We stayed in Naha, the capital city of Okinawa. It really felt like Honolulu to me. It was beachy and carefree, with a huge strip of shopping and restaurants and lots of tourists. Our first night, we checked out the strip and ate at a little Okinawan izakaya that had Orion beer and taco rice, Naoto’s favorites. We started with drinks. Naoto had an Orion beer and I had a shikuwasa cocktail. Shikuwasa is native to Okinawa and Taiwan and it’s a citrus that is kind of bitter and really sour. It makes a really good cocktail with shochu and soda. We ordered gyoza (shown above) which really hit the spot. Next we had a salad with shredded cabbage, tomatoes, scallions, pork, and a citrusy dressing. Then we had Okinawan sweet potato fries dipped in honey. Seriously, honey is under-utilized as a dipping sauce in America! We should take a break from ranch dressing and eat more honey!And the main dish: taco rice! It’s basically a taco salad but on a bed of rice. We’ve made it at home before and it’s really good and comforting. I told Naoto we should make it this week and share the recipe so I’ll keep you posted. The version we usually make doesn’t have cheese, but let’s be honest–everything is better with a little shredded cheddar!  After dinner, we strolled around the tourist area and I picked up some stationery (surprise, surprise) and we got some salt. Okinawan salt is a “thing” so we bought some shikuwasa salt and onion salt to bring home. I really loved the paper onigiri in the store display. 

 

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Bar Lariat

We celebrated Naoto’s birthday in Japan on January 5th. I found this local craft cocktail bar, Bar Lariat, in “our neighborhood” near our usual hotel and I insisted we try it. bar LariatFive years ago, we went to Mixology near Tokyo Station and we had a great time…all the time not knowing that this tiny gem of a bar was within walking distance of our hotel! There is no menu. You just let the bartender know what kind of drink you’re in the mood for and he creates something for you. I will admit that this kind of stressed me out. I didn’t want to drink something terrible…but it turns out, the bartender is a great listener and he hit it out of the ballpark all night! With our first cocktail, we were given this little amuse-bouche, cheese and a dried apricot. To start, Naoto ordered something like a Moscow Mule. And I requested something bright and gin based. The bartender muddled a ginko with gin and some other mixers and I was handed a refreshing, delicious cocktail. When Naoto told me a ginko would be part of my drink, I was scared. Have you ever smelled a ginko tree? It’s not good!  But the fruit was really delicious! Kind of sweet and orangey? For his second drink, Naoto had a vodka and kumquat. I finished the night with a yuzu cocktail. Everything about this drink, and especially the delicate chilled glass, was perfection. I felt so fancy drinking here! Naoto had a coffee liquor drink for dessert.  bar lariatWe definitely want to go back on our next visit. The bar only has ten seats and it’s dark and cozy inside. The owner, Masahiro-San, is an expert in his craft and he really creates a relaxing ambiance in his shop. Thanks to him, we ended Naoto’s birthday on a high note!

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Man on the Moon Party

On Saturday, we had a little Man on the Moon celebration for the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11. It was a small, last minute affair but I still wanted to set the Party mood with decorations and a theme menu.I made a cheeseball that I left naked so it sort of resembled the moon and I put a little astronaut on top. We had other cheese and crackers and Naoto made cashew chicken, jello, and Karen brought deviled eggs so it was a retro menu. Oreo came out with a “marshmallow moon” version that had space scenes on the cookies. Easy dessert!We served Moonwalk Cocktails, which is the actual drink Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin drank when they returned to Earth. They were refreshing and fun, kind of like a mimosa.

Moonwalk Cocktail

1 oz orange liqueur

1 oz grapefruit juice

3 drops rosewater

top with sparkling wine

Add orange liqueur, grapefruit juice, and rosewater to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled. Strain into glass and top with sparkling wine. Toast to the moon. In the living room I made star garlands out of shimmery papers and vellum and I made a weird looking moon out of a giant piece of cardstock and glitter. (Truthfully, it needs more glitter.) We watched a moon landing documentary while also listening to NPR’s moon landing playlist. (I added some songs because what is a moon themed playlist without Cat Stevens’ Moonshadow and Pink Floyd’s Eclipse?)Before we were married, Naoto and I threw a moon conspiracy theory party where we all watched a conspiracy documentary about how the moon landing was faked. I think that was our first theme party! So, this was a nice re-visiting of the moon theme…without the wild theories… (Just to be clear, we watched the documentary for fun, not because any of us are conspiracy theorists. Though if you’re into that kind of thing, the documentary we watched is available on Prime! I found it when I was looking for other documentaries to watch this time. It’s called What Happened on the Moon? An Investigation into Apollo and it’s more than three hours long.)I am kicking myself for not taking any pictures once everyone came because I had a little moon and stars skirt on and Brooke wore a retro patriotic outfit and Jessica and Karen came in 1960s dresses, but…we were having a good time.

Did you celebrate the moon landing anniversary? I haven’t bought my moon landing postage stamps yet, but I have been using up some of my vintage space themed stamps.

 

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Hasegawa Tanabata 2019

Hasegawa Tanabata was a low-key affair this year. We didn’t invite any guests and I didn’t decorate (gasp!) but it was such an amazing summer night for enjoying a light meal on the lanai. And of course Naoto is my favorite “guest” anyway! We had a busy day at the community garden so it all kind of fell together at the last minute, thanks to some Tensuke Market sushi and some easy Japanese recipes. I thought Naoto was going to get a sushi tray, but he really held back at the sushi counter, only bringing home two rolls and six pieces of sushi. (For the record, this is barely enough sushi for HIM!) Thankfully we had other things on the menu…Japanese potato salad and ham & egg salad sandwiches. We were going to make somen, but we ended up feeling full with what we had and some Japanese snacks.I made yuzu cocktails and they were so good, I think we need to share the recipe. We bought this yuzu liqueur at Mitsuwa a few weeks ago and we really like it! It’s good on its own and with soda water and it worked really nicely in the yuzu cocktail, too. The rest of the night, we shared some sparkling wine.It was so unseasonably chilly, we both ended up in jackets but no regrets at all…it was perfect…maybe not blog post perfect, but perfect for us. 🙂

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Cocktail Perfected: Tanabata Cocktail

Naoto and I have been working on our menu for our 4th annual Hasegawa Tanabata. We are going all out this year again with a sushi tray and lots of homemade recipes we’ve been perfecting all year. It really is my favorite night of the summer…well, next to fireworks…but the food is better. (Sorry, grilled American food.) Last year I made a batch of spumonis and we’ve also had yuzu liqueur and sake, but this year, I wanted a fancy cocktail and I found this one on Reddit. It tastes like something you’d drink at a suburban sushi restaurant, though it’s not Japanese. Still, I think the purple is fitting with the spirit of Tanabata and it’s very delicious.

Empress Cocktail 

2oz gin

0.75oz fresh lemon juice

0.75oz lychee liqueur

0.5oz creme de violette

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until very chilled. Strain into a cocktail glass. Serve on the lanai with some sushi and gyoza on a hot summer night.

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Washi Weekend: Handsome Man Bartender

We were shopping in the fancy department store, Takashimaya, when I found this hilarious “Handsome Bartender” washi tape. Naoto made me buy it because “it’s so you!” and it made me laugh. There are several other Handsome Man tapes: a teacher, a high school student, a host, a doctor, and a freelancer. (You can see the others below the Handsome Bartender link.) Really, there’s a handsome man for everyone. Right now I’m using him on my cocktail notebook (a gift from April who purchased it at an old school stationery store in Massachusetts.) I also put him in my planner for July because he just fits. I think I need to find a way to use him on some mail this month. I can’t keep him all to myself!

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13th Anniversary

Naoto and I celebrated our 13th anniversary on Sunday. It was such a perfect weather day–60s and sunny. spent the morning on the balcony opening our gifts and drinking coffee and then we went to the West Loop for brunch. Three cheers for our gift wrapping this year! Naoto’s gift came in a huge box, so I had to use roll wrap for it. I was able to fold some tucks into the wrapping so I had a little pocket for the wooden card I gave him. And Naoto used this lovely gold and yellow handmade paper for my gifts. He’s come a long way in his wrapping skills. The thirteenth anniversary gifts are textile and lace. I gave Naoto a pillow made with Japanese sashiko fabric. I think he really liked it. And he gave me an Irish table runner and some Irish tea, Barry’s Black, (which Presley’s head is conveniently blocking above.) We went to Saint Lou’s Assembly for brunch. We got there just as the kitchen was closing, so we were able to squeeze in our order and then enjoy leisurely cocktails and peanut butter & jelly soft serve after our meal. The cocktails were amazing, and the atmosphere was very casual and fun. We are looking forward to going back for dinner and frosé outside once the weather warms up again. After brunch, we stopped in Open Books right across the street. (Naoto was very into this Edward Hopper book.)Since we ate such a late lunch and didn’t want to venture out again, we made a mini cheese platter for ourselves and had a little happy hour on the newly lit balcony instead of going out to dinner. We drank yuzu & soda cocktails and finished out the day wrapped in blankets. I’m so thankful for such a gorgeous day, and for thirteen years with this guy.

 

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The Darling

In March, Naoto took me to The Darling for Sunday night birthday cocktails. (I’m very behind on blogging!) It came highly recommended for the drinks and the experience. We had a fabulous time.

There’s very much a speakeasy vibe here. When you go in, it looks like you’re in a weird flower shop, until the host breaks open the wall so you can enter the bar area. There are cozy leather couches and lounge-seating, and that night, there was a fire crackling in the fireplace.

We started with a Buds of May (me) and a Paddington’s Marmalade Negroni (Naoto.) Both were really delicious, and mine was served at the table from a teapot and the presentation was everything. The next round, I got the Mary Poppins, which had strawberry-flavored boba bubbles in it that popped when you bit into them. It was a fun drink, a little on the sweeter side. Naoto got the Curious George because I was curious (for lack of a better word) about it with the chocolate and banana and whiskey, and we both really liked it.

Naoto was in an especially goofy mood and made me laugh the whole night. The video is a little hard to hear, but he’s channeling Bob Harris in Lost in Translation.
Our last round was something I can’t remember and a Secret Garden (the one with the pretty flower on top.) All of the cocktails were well-crafted and interesting. We did get a few small bites but nothing was super memorable or mind-blowing. The drinks and special touches around the place make The Darling and must-return for us, probably for before or after dinner drinks.The check is presented in an old book with two tiny glasses of Last Words. We’re planning on visiting the West Loop this weekend for our anniversary, so maybe we’ll pop in again before dinner…

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