This August, wet your whistle three different ways.
Hitachino Nest Beer
The Story Up in the town of Kounosu, Ibaraki Prefecture, Kiuchi Brewery had been making sake since 1823, but once beer licenses became available to microbreweries in Japan, the company went for another brew. They made their first batch in 1996, won their first international award in 1997, and the attention has been flowing in ever since.
Why We Love Them It starts with the label: the graphic design has a chunky, retro charm that caught our attention from the very start (who knows – maybe we’ve also got a thing for owls). But we wouldn’t have given a hoot if it wasn’t for the flavors: Hitachino is known for coming up with original ideas that are tasty and unique, but aren’t too gimmicky.
What to Try Two refreshing options are the lightly spicy White Ale, and the Dai Dai Ale, with notes of mandarin orange. Want something darker? Try the Espresso Stout. Hitachino Brewing Lab, N1 1–25–4 Kandasudacho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo. (hitachino.cc/en)
The Story You can pick up a bottle of single-serving sake at the combini, but let’s be honest: that One-Cup just isn’t cutting it when it comes to style. Recognizing that it wasn’t just salarymen who were interested in small bottles of nihonshu, Takarayama Brewing company created their line of Hito-Nomi (single portion) sake for people who wanted the flavor of good sake without the full-sized bottles.
Why We Love Them A delicate design that looks more like a bottle of perfume than a container for sake. An extremely wide variety of nihonshu to accompany just about any occasion.
What to Try Nigori (unfiltered) sake has an eye-catching appearance, but for a real touch of class, chill yourself a small bottle of junmai ginjo made from highly polished grains of Japan’s celebrated Koshihikari rice. (tinyurl.com/hito-nomi)
KOVAL Dry Gin
The Story Born in Austria, Robert Birnecker got his start helping his grandparents at their distillery and winery. He met his wife Sonat in Washington DC. Inspired by a love of fine spirits, the two left the world of academia for the city of Chicago and realm of whiskey, rye, bourbon, and since 2014, dry gin.
Why We Love Them Another stylish bottle that you’ll be tempted to keep around the kitchen after you’ve poured out the last drop. A heady mix of botanical flavors that blends well, but still manages to make its presence felt in any concoction you choose to stir up. The name Koval, which means “blacksmith” in Yiddish, also means “black sheep” – that is, someone who isn’t afraid to do things a bit differently.
What to Try It wouldn’t be a summer drinking session without a few gin and tonics, but the spicy, floral nuances of this spirit make for an excellent martini, gimlet, or negroni. Available at Shinjuku’s Takashimaya, finer bars around Tokyo, or on Amazon. (www.koval-distillery.com/newsite)
There’s no sense in pairing fine gin with less than superior mixers. These are three tonics that you should try in G&Ts to come.
This tonic takes its name from the chinchona tree, whose bark contains the quinine that gives the beverage some of its bite. Pleasantly fizzy, and not too sweet. (Amazon)
A little more citrus flavor than you might be expecting in an everyday tonic, so you might even be able to leave out the squeeze of lime. But you wouldn’t do that, would you? (Amazon)
Jack Rudy Small Batch Tonic
For the true connoisseur: add soda water to this concentrate to taste. While you can get the two tonics above on Amazon, you’ll need some help getting these and other syrups from overseas. jackrudycocktailco.com