Sakura Martini

Hachiko's birthday

Your cocktail calendar entry for: November
10
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November 10 is the time to mix the Sakura Martini for a dog’s birthday.  On that day in 1923 Hachiko, a white Japanese Akita dog, was born.  He’s certainly the most famous dog in Japanese history.  Multiple movies have been made and a bronze statue at the world’s busiest pedestrian crossing honors him.

Hachiko is remembered for legendary loyalty to his owner.  That has led to an annual ceremony for him in Tokyo and he’s on display in a National Museum.  This is one very good boy.

The Sakura Martini seems appropriate for Hachiko’s 100th birthday and is pictured here at its birthplace:  Bar Goto in New York.  Sakura itself means cherry blossom in Japanese.  They’re symbolic of spring, renewal and the fleeting nature of life.  You’ll soon see how that fits this story.

The Story of Hachiko

Hidesaburo Ueno, a professor of agriculture at the Tokyo Imperial University, decided he wanted a dog.  In fact, he was encouraged to buy an Akita, a breed from the snowy and rural area of Odate of northern Japan.  Ueno became aware of some dogs available and adopted a puppy born on a farm in the region.  They lived together in the Shibuya area of Tokyo.

Every morning, Ueno took the train to work.  Hachiko soon decided to accompany him to the Shibuya Station, go home and then return at the end of the day to greet him exiting the station.  This continued until May 21, 1925 when Ueno did not show up.  That was because he had suffered a massive stroke and died while giving a lecture.

Hachiko was passed around a bit but ultimately taken in by Ueno’s former gardener.  Then every day, for the nearly ten years left of his life, Hachiko returned to the station at the same time to await Ueno’s return.  He would sit patiently for hours before returning home to the gardener.  Then one day a former student of Ueno published an article about Hachiko.  The dog became a national sensation and people started bringing treats to Hachiko as he waited outside the train station.

Hachiko passed away on the street in Shibuya, on March 8, 1935.  It turned out he had terminal cancer and heartworm.  But he was living right: four yakitori skewers (that hadn’t harmed him) were found in his stomach.  He was cremated and his ashes buried alongside those of his beloved master, Professor Ueno.  Hachiko’s pelt was preserved and taxidermy mounted, and he remains on display at the National Science Museum of Japan.

Hachiko’s Legacy

Hachiko remains a cultural icon to this day.  His faithfulness to Ueno impressed society with his spirit of family loyalty to be emulated.  Teachers and parents taught children about Hachiko as a model to follow.

In 1934, a bronze statue of Hachiko was created by artist Teru Ando and put up at Shibuya Station.  But it got pulled as a source of metal during World War II and was replaced in 1948 by the original artist’s son.  It’s a popular attraction and meeting site in Tokyo, immediately adjacent to the world’s busiest pedestrian street crossing.  The station entrance nearest the statue is even named “Hachiko-guchi”, meaning “The Hachiko Entrance/Exit.”  Every year, on March 8, he is honored with a solemn ceremony of remembrance at Shibuya Station.

The Sakura Martini

The Sakura Martini is perfect for Hachiko’s birthday.  His statue in Shibuya is surrounded by cherry trees that are ablaze with blossoms, or Sakura, each spring.  That ceremony is held in March when those blossoms tend to appear.

The Sakura Martini was created by Kenta Goto at his eponymous Bar Goto in New York.  It’s much loved and is starting to be considered a modern classic.  It’s a definitive improvement on the Saketini of late 1990s popularity.  It’s also certainly different than a classic Martini, and fits into the category of Martini variations such as the Hanky Panky or the Tuxedo cocktail.

The garnish of salted cherry blossom may sound intimidating, but worry not.  They are readily available in Japanese markets, online, or through Amazon.  Cherry blossoms are a fleeting annual event, and each year many are preserved in salt.  Here they’re for more than looks – the salt adds both a floral element and the salt an olive does in a classic martini.

sakura martini

Sakura Martini

A strong candidate to become a modern classic, the Sakura Martini comes from Bar Goto in New York. It's best described as a martini variation as it uses Sake augmented by gin rather than the other way around. With a bit of maraschino liqueur and a cherry blossom garnish it brings into play the floral elements of each.
Don't be intimidated by the salted cherry blossom garnish that's called for. Easy to get online, it's a Japanese staple.
5 from 1 vote

Ingredients
  

  • oz Sake Use a dry sake here, aged if you can find it.
  • 1 oz Gin A Japanese gin, which tend to be less juniper-heavy than most London dry gins, is preferred.
  • ¼ tsp Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
  • Salted cherry blossom Readily available from Japanese groceries, online and Amazon.

Instructions
 

  • Add sake, gin and maraschino liqueur to your trusty mixing glass.
  • Add ice and stir to chill.
  • Strain into pre-chilled coupe.
  • Drop in a salted sakura, or cherry blossom.
  • Drink.
  • Pet the dog.

 

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