A Beginner's Guide To Using Wasabi In Cocktails

Wasabi Cocktails

Wasabi is an exotic ingredient making fiery appearances in the culinary world. It has been incorporated into dips, hummus, marinades, deviled eggs, noodles and many more types of dishes. Traditionally, wasabi is used as a condiment with all kinds of sushi. It helps accentuate the flavours of the raw fish rather than overshadow it. Its hot, pungent and bitter flavours are making waves everywhere, including in the world of mixology. 

Bartenders have experimented with it to create cocktails with feisty zing successfully. Although wasabi cocktails aren't very common, they are certainly popular, especially when bars set out to experiment and innovate and bring forth interesting cocktails. Wasabi is also a sharper and bolder substitute for pepper while making boozy drinks.

However, even though the entry of this ingredient in mixology has received a lot of acclaim, it has proven to be difficult to access. Wasabi is made using the rhizomes of Wasabia japonica plant, a species native to Japan and a few parts of Russia and South Korea. This plant needs a very particular atmosphere to grow, and hence it is not possible to mass produce it across the world. Hence procuring real wasabi itself is difficult and an expensive effort. This has led to many food companies creating wasabi using horseradish and adding green food colour. Most wasabi pastes and powders you find in stores aren't authentic and it is reflected in the taste and texture of the ingredient. True wasabi has a gritty and grated texture and the horseradish blends are pasty and smooth.

Wasabi Cocktail

So while making a cocktail, it is important to keep in mind that the wasabi pastes and powders you use won't have the same impact on your taste buds and olfactory senses as the real one. But they work well enough to create spicy cocktails. You can avail real wasabi from online stores or buy the rhizomes and grate it with a shark skin paddle.

Below are some guidelines that will help you in exploring wasabi cocktails at home:

What forms can you use wasabi in?

Since the wasabi you get in physical stores comes in the form of powder or paste, you can use either of these to make cocktails or garnish them.

If you can access authentic wasabi rhizomes, take a pea-sized mound while making the drink for one, and blend it with other ingredients. You may have to strain the drink in case the wasabi doesn't fully dissolve.

The wasabi powder, paste or wasabi sea salt can be used as a garnish. You can grate the rhizome over the cocktail glass to decorate it or delicately line the rim of the glass with the wasabi paste. You can also use wasabi sea salt or wasabi powder to rim the glass edges. Better yet, you can even decorate a plate with a bay leaf and wasabi and serve it before providing the cocktail.

What substitutes can you consider for wasabi?

Horseradish, mustard, ginger, chili peppers in place of wasabi. If you can find exotic ingredients, then go with yuzu or daikon (radish from Japan).

Wasabi Cocktail

Which spirits work best with wasabi?

Sake, vodka, gin, and tequila work very well with wasabi.

What should you watch out for when using wasabi in cocktails?

Firstly, remember that wasabi has a bold flavour, too much of it can ruin the taste of the cocktail. Based on your liking for spiciness, add wasabi to the cocktail, but start with a small quantity. Add other ingredients that balance flavours such as citrusy elements, sugar syrup, fruity or floral ingredients. Check the taste again; you can add more wasabi or the balancing ingredient, based on your liking. The maximum quantity of wasabi for one drink is usually a pea-sized mound. Once you have blended wasabi in the drink, ensure that the paste or powder is completely dissolved. If it doesn't dissolve, strain the drink and get a clear, smooth cocktail.

And while you’re experimenting with wasabi in cocktails, do remember to serve and drink responsibly!