Saturday, March 24, 2018

Vernal Journal

It’s about time there was some warmer weather in my part of the world.  Perhaps, if things go according to plan, the northern hemisphere of the Earth will tilt a bit closer to the sun as its orbit brings it round the bend.  I know many of my north eastern friends would welcome a break from the brutal winter they have faced this year.  I should be careful what I wish for – it’s going to get too hot in Houston before I even finish writing this.  But right now the weather is lovely, and the spring has officially started. 

Spring Night by Yoh Kakuda

In Japan, the frog is a common symbol of spring, perhaps due to the many species which erupt in song all throughout the rice fields this time of year.  In “Spring Night”, Yoh Kakuda evokes the return of spring with a happy frog who is enjoying his sake one night, while he gazes at the hazy moon and beautiful flowering cherry blossoms.  It’s so wonderful that he quickly gets drunk and falls asleep.  This fine fellow sits on a sturdy table with a locked drawer.  But no matter, let him enjoy this tranquil evening.  Pour him some sake, and perhaps he will bring you luck for unlocking.  The frog is also a symbol of good luck in Japan, and represents the idea of having returning fortune.  The Japanese word for frog, “kaeru”, sounds the same as the word meaning “return”.  So for good luck and successful returns in all things, people will often carry a lucky frog with them.  I sit mine on the shelf, where he keeps an eye on the other puzzles, and maybe brings some luck in opening them, too.

A perfect box and booze box - so lucky!

Spring Night is also a rather charming box in my opinion for another obvious reason – perhaps you will not have overlooked that this frog is drinking sake?  The box resides in the small category of perfect “Boxes and Booze” puzzle boxes, along with a few other.  Sake, you may know, is the traditional Japanese spirit made from fermented rice, which originated over 2500 years ago.  Our lucky frog is drinking his sake from a traditional “masu” wooden box cup (an ancient box and booze) which holds a volume of 1 “go” (approximately 180 ml / 6 fl oz).  He pours the sake into his cup from a “tokkuri”,  the traditional bulbous flask with a narrow neck, and he likely lets the cup overflow, to show prosperity (and perhaps because he is a little drunk).

Hazy Moon

Clearly we need to have a sake drink with our lucky friend, and he looks like he might share.  Spring calls for light, citrusy cocktails like the Daisy I described a few springs ago, and sake works perfectly in this setting as well. Carissa Pierce, known as the “Fermented Alaskan”, has a fondness for sake cocktails and created this simply perfect drink for the season.  Her “Rise to the Occasion” cocktail is a classic daiquiri riff using plum sake. In my version I used nigori sake, known as “cloud” sake due to the cloudy appearance imparted by unfiltered and unfermented rice left in the liquid.  I like the nigori style for its texture and sweetness, and it was perfect in this combination with white rum, lime juice and demerara sugar.  Here’s to balmy evenings, sweet scents on the air, tantalizing tipples and a return of good fortunes.  Cheers!

Nigori sake and rum are perfect together

Hazy Moon adapted from Carissa Pierce

1 oz nigori sake
1 oz white rum
1 oz fresh lime
½ oz demerara (or simple) syrup

Shake together with ice and strain into a favorite glass. Garnish with something lucky.

A lovely spring night

For more about Yoh Kakuda:


For prior daiquiri variations:

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