My college roommate would make onigiri, Japanese rice balls, to pack up for lunch before hitting campus most mornings. The ones that needled onto my taste memory like a throbbing pink tattoo were the rice balls he filled with a single umeboshi, vividly pungent and salty pickled ume plums, stained rhubarb-pie red with shiso leaf. I loved and feared them at once. This cocktail, inspired by the Yoyogi at Portland’s Biwa, revives the intensity for me. It’s traditional in Japan to serve pickled umeboshi at the bottom of a glass of shochu and water—you sip and muddle, until the drink disappears. In this recipe, muddled umeboshi combines with vodka, lime juice, and ginger syrup; garnish with a whole pickle for eventual nibbling. (If you’d like to try pickling your own ume, Just Hungry has a pretty detailed recipe.)

Vodka Gimlet with Ginger and Umeboshi
Makes 1 cocktail

2 pickled umeboshi plums
1 1/2 ounces vodka
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 ounce Ginger Syrup

Step 1: Place a cocktail glass in the freezer to chill.

Step 2: Pit one of the umeboshi plums and add it to a cocktail shaker, add a small handful of ice, and muddle until the plum is mashed and pulpy. Add the vodka, lime juice, and ginger syrup, another small handful of ice, and shake.

Step 3: Drop the whole umeboshi into the glass, pour the cocktail through a strainer, and serve.

Second round:
Gin and Tonic, Barcelona Style

Photos and styling by Chris Rochelle

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