• Richard Murff

Not Your Go-to Cocktail



It’s amazing how many businesses close down when you make it illegal for them to operate. Like a lot of us during the lock-down, I tried to do my bit and get take-out from local restaurants, but it wasn’t the same: I went into a sushi place one evening and found that the kitchen staff had hung a hammock in the dining room. I still don’t know what to make of that.


As we’ve learned in the last year or so, restaurants aren’t exactly about the food, that’s more of the excuse. Besides, there is always something sluggish about take-out. It’s not eating out, it’s just food you didn’t make served up it something you’d see in a soup kitchen. And yet you’ve paid through the nose for the privilege. Sure, the drinks are cheaper that way, but because nothing will put a guy in a rut like epidemic pathogens, even these they get boring pretty quickly. My usual sushi cocktail is the gin and soda, with a twist of lime: it’s crisp, refreshing, and it lets the delicate flavors of the fish do its thing. You purists can go to hell, I know that tonic is more traditional, but soda has a cleaner aftertaste.


So when my friend and co-conspirator on the 4717 podcast, David Seale, mentioned a whisky cocktail he’d had with sushi, I was intrigued. And a little dubious. Whisky and sushi, to me, are two dear friends from different circles that you can never introduce because you know they’d absolutely hate each other. Still, the world was opening up and toilet paper seemed readily available, so it was time to step out of the comfortable go-to drinks and take a chance.


The trick eating sushi with liquor – even gin – is to make it pretty light. With more Americanized sushi, like spicy tuna and salmon, a light whisky will work. Even more traditional sushi fare like mackerel stands up to it. Up to a point: single malts and bourbon would clobber the balance of fish and rice. The whisky in question was Suntory – a Japanese whisky that is more light lemongrass than heavy oak – simple syrup and orange bitters. Words fail me, it tastes like a Graham Greene novel.


Perhaps we’ll file this under “what grows together, goes together.” Perhaps after being stuck at home as a couple of business trips got coughed on by the Covid, I’m just bored as hell. I don’t know. Either way, it wouldn’t kill us to step out of our comfortable go-to’s (and sweat-pants) and do something different.