London’s top bartenders are taking a shine to the UK’s top-selling sparkling saké, making it the hero ingredient of their latest cocktails
First we spotted Mio Sparkling Saké’s signature blue bottle on the tables of London’s finest Japanese restaurants, and now we’re seeing it behind the city’s best bars as well. We’ve heard this popular saké makes a standout ingredient in cocktails – so just what is it that’s drawing bartenders to Mio?
It likely has to do with Mio’s light, sweet taste and playful effervescence. With notes of fresh green apple, juicy stone fruit, ripe melon and jasmine tea, the saké provides a zippy, refreshing quality to any drink. What’s more, Mio’s low abv – just 5% – balances out other boozier elements in a cocktail.
Given the saké’s easy-drinking nature, it’s little surprise that in the autumn issue of Imbibe, we dubbed Mio ‘an excellent ambassador for the entire saké category’. The rest of the country seems to think so too, since Mio is now the top-selling sparkling saké in the UK.
Bringing balance to drinks
For Michael Ouranos, head bartender for the Japanese restaurant Sticks’n’Sushi’s Victoria outpost, Mio’s popularity has translated to impressive cocktail sales.
‘Our Mio cocktail has been one of our top sellers from the time we put it on the menu,’ Ouranos says. The well-received drink he’s referring to is Tokyo Botanicals, which marries Roku Gin, yuzu juice, apple saké and mint liqueur with the bubbly lift of Mio. He developed the recipe over the summer, and it’s been on Sticks’n’Sushi’s menu ever since.
‘[When I was creating Tokyo Botanicals] I tried it with prosecco and with champagne, but they didn’t work as well. It needed the bubbles and the sweetness,’ he explains. ‘I went for 10ml of sugar syrup rather than 20ml, so I wanted something that would make up for that while adding flavour. I’m counting on Mio to provide that.’
The result of Ouranos’ labour is a delightful, ethereal drink that is as complex as it is refreshing. Herbal notes from the gin are layered with crisp apple and a cooling hint of mint, all sitting beautifully against a backdrop of frothy saké.
‘The Mio cuts through the other strong flavours to balance everything,’ says Ouranos, rightly pointing out that the saké’s acidity plays a crucial role in the drink.
A different brand of bubbly
As the head of spirit and cocktail development for Sushisamba, bartender extraordinaire Rich Woods also knows a thing or two about balancing a cocktail and he frequently uses saké in his recipes.
‘Saké is great for creating light, fresh aperitivo-style drinks,’ Woods explains. ‘Its low abv brings creamy, sweet, fruity flavours without overpowering other ingredients.
‘Mio has the additional benefit of being sparkling, which when used in the correct proportions adds a lovely effervescent fizz to a highball or a coupette-style drink.’
For the cocktail selection at the newly opened Sushisamba Covent Garden, Woods harnessed Mio’s bubbles and devised the Saké Spritz. He chose to combine a lengthy pour of Mio with rosé wine, the elderflower kiss of St-Germain and a shake of grapefruit bitters.
‘Using Mio in a long drink carries the creamy rice, grape and vanilla notes of the saké all that bit further,’ he says.
Woods’ Saké Spritz is delicate and citrusy. Along with Ouranos’ Tokyo Botanicals, it shows the wide range of flavours that Mio can support – everything from herbaceous and aromatic to fruity and floral.
Mio’s success is undoubtedly owed, in part, to this versatility. But for Ouranos, Mio’s growing popularity comes down to one key point. ‘London loves bubbles,’ he says. ‘Mio is revolutionary for saké because even if people aren’t familiar with the category, they’ll still gravitate towards Mio’s bubbles, both on its own and in cocktails.’
40ml Roku Gin
50ml rosé wine
Mio Sparkling Saké is brewed by Takara and distributed in the UK by Tazaki Foods. Interested in stocking Mio and using it in your own cocktails? Contact Tazaki Foods at 020 8344 3000 or visit tazakifoods.com