Traveling Inspiration: A Yuzu Mojito from Tokyo

Straight Up Cocktails and Spirits

When I visited Tokyo for the first time last month, I enjoyed quite a few memorable food and drink-related experiences: watching a lightning-fast 5 am tuna auction, shopping at a depachika, eating the freshest sushi I'd ever tasted, sampling a variety of Japanese whiskies, and sipping on a tall, cool yuzu mojito with a Quentin Tarantino twist...We had stopped in for lunch at Gonpachi in the Roppongi neighborhood of Tokyo. It was a touristy choice but we couldn't resist. A large, squarish room with a rustically styled, lantern-hung mezzanine level, the restaurant is said to be the inspiration for the "House of Blue Leaves" in the "Crazy 88s" fight scene in the Quentin Tarantino movie, Kill Bill, Vol. 1.

I ordered a lunch set: grilled fish served with rice and a bowl of miso soup. But what to drink? My husband ordered cold sake. It was served in a masu, a traditional box-shaped cedar cup marked with Gonpachi's logo. Wanting to try something a little different, I scanned the cocktail list.

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There were a few variations on the mojito, that classic blend of white rum, cool mint, tart lime, sugar, a splash of club soda to top things up: in addition to the classic lime, Gonpachi offered tantalizing-sounding grapefuit and yuzu-flavored drinks.

I went for the yuzu, although I'd sampled one before in a bar in New York, and experimented with making one from frozen zest and bottled juice at home, I'd never tried one in Japan, where the fruit is cultivated. A tart, sometimes bumpy-skinned member of the citrus family, yuzu has a distinctive (and addictive) grapefruity, mandarin-orangey flavor.

I took one sip and I was hooked. Now if only the 5, 6, 7, 8s were there to play "Woo Hoo"...

Have you tried new drinks during your travels? What cocktail ideas have you taken home?

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(Images: Nora Maynard)

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