Recipes: Cherry blossom-themed cocktails offer taste of spring

Cherry blossom tea (Courtesy Columbia Room)
Cherry Blossom Tea 2 ounces barley-based sochu
2 ounce pickled cherry blossom tea (see directions below)
1/4 ounce apricot liquor
A couple drops of lemon juice Cherry blossom for garnish (optional) Combine all ingredients and allow to chill, keeping in mind that you will not need to add ice, which would dilute the cocktail. Serve in the “daintiest teacup.” To make the  pickled cherry blossom tea: Drop a couple of cherry blossoms into 10 ounces of hot water and steep for 30 minutes or to taste. Photo: Courtesy Columbia Room (SCOTT SUCHMAN)
Sakura flower cherry blossom.
Cherry Blossom Collins 1.5 ounces wheat vodka
1/4 ounce pickled cherry blossom tea syrup (see directions below)
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/4 ounce grenadine 2 dashes of orange cream citrate (optional, but add a bit more lemon juice if you don’t use it)
2 to 3 ounces sparkling mineral water Shake all ingredients except the mineral water. Pour the shaken mixture in a glass over ice. Top with the mineral water. To make the pickled cherry blossom tea syrup: Begin by making the cherry blossom tea. Drop a couple of cherry blossoms into 10 ounces of hot water and steep for 30 minutes or to taste. Use the cherry blossom tea as the liquid for the simple syrup. To make simple syrup, boil equal parts of the liquid and sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool. Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto/Tainar (Getty Images/iStockphoto/Tainar)
Cockatil Olives in Martini Glass
Learn by Watching 2 ounces wheat vodka
1 ounce French blanc vermouth
1.5 ounces pickled cherry blossom tea (see directions below)
A drop of celery shrub
Small cherry blossom or olive for garnish (optional) Combine all ingredients and and chill, keeping in mind that adding ice later will dilute the cocktail. Serve in martini glass. To make the  pickled cherry blossom tea: Drop a couple of cherry blossoms into 10 ounces of hot water and steep for 30 minutes or to taste. Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto/augustproject (Getty Images/iStockphoto/augustproject)
Cherry Rum Punch 1.5 ounces cherry-rum infusion (see directions below)
3/4 ounce guarapo (can use simple syrup as substitute, but if you do, only use a 1/2 ounce)
Dash of aromatic bitters
3/4 ounce lime juice
Pinch cinnamon powder
Cherries, cinnamon stick for garnish (optional) Combine all the ingredients in a shaker. Shake vigorously six to seven times “so your neighbor can hear you.” Serve in a highball (8.5 ounce) glass over ice. Can also be served as a martini. To make the cherry-rum infusion: combine 32 ounces dried, sweet cherries (use fresh cherries if you can find them) with 1 liter of white rum. Allow cherries to infuse in the rum for 48 hours or to taste. Photo: Courtesy Cuba Libre (Courtesy Cuba Libre)
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Cherry blossom tea (Courtesy Columbia Room)
Sakura flower cherry blossom.
Cockatil Olives in Martini Glass

WASHINGTON —Cherry blossom season has kicked into high gear. If you’ve missed the big bloom period, it’s not too late to get a taste of spring.  Cocktail dens throughout the District are coming up with their own tasty translations for the iconic blooms lining the Tidal Basin. We’ve rounded up a recipes.

Pickled cherry blossoms: Perfect pairing for cocktails?

This season the recently revamped Columbia Room in D.C. is offering a few cocktails built around a home-brewed pickled cherry blossom tea. “It’s this very light, slightly floral but slightly salty tea,” says J.P. Fetherston, head bartender at the Columbia Room.

The most basic one, Cherry Blossom Tea, combines a barley-based sochu (sochu is a distilled liquor from Japan) with and apricot liquor, tea honey and, of course, the pickled cherry blossom tea.

To make this tea, plop a couple of these pickled cherry blossoms — Fetherston says these can be found online through some intense Googling — into about 10 ounces of hot water and let steep for a few minutes. How long is up to you. “The cool thing is you’re never going to over steep that tea,” Fetherston says.

The Columbia Room let its tea steep for about 30 minutes.

Fetherston also shared recipes for two other drinks: a dirty martini riff called Learn by Watching; and another called the Cherry Blossom Collins, which is a D.C. cherry blossom season version of a classic Tom Collins.

DIY cherry-infused rum punch

For those who don’t have access to cherry blossoms, it’s fine to think in terms of metaphors. After all, there’s no cherry blossom without the “cherry.”

“Rum and cherries are great friends of each other,” says Amnon Pick, general manager for Cuba Libre in D.C.

Fittingly, the rum bar has whipped up a cherry-infused rum punch. Theirs is sweetened by guarapo, an extracted sugar cane juice that Pick called the “backbone” sweetener for the bar’s cocktails.

“The flavor of the cane juice versus the simple syrup is a little softer and not as rough on the palate,” Pick says. “Simple syrup can create a bit of an aftertaste.”

You can make do with simple syrup if you don’t have guarapo on hand. Pick says you’d just need to scale back the amount you’d use.

Pick says the hardest part is waiting for the cherries to infuse with the rum — though the same could be said for waiting on those cherry blossom buds to bloom.

For those feeling adventurous: A cocktail with blossom water and beets

Sushiko Chevy Chase’s Sakura Bitsu cocktail broadly drew inspiration from spring — the fact that spring is a fickle, transitional season that flip flops between cold and warm weather.

This cocktail has a lot going on. It’s a mix of whiskey, a beet-and-clove purée, orange juice, yuzu and blossom water.

“The big thing we were doing, what we were considering, was more winter ingredients,” says bar manager Zachary Khalifa, “and then build toward spring,”

The beet-and-clove purée represents wintertime and the citrusy flavors — the orange juice, yuzu and blossom water — represent bright, fresh spring.

Khalifa described the making of a Sakura Bitsu as a taste-as-you-go-along process. Some of the ingredients are common — the whiskey, the orange juice, and the beets and cloves.

But most people probably won’t have ready access to blossom water,  which Sushiko drink makers use to coat the glass.

Khalifa said Triple Sec can stand in for the blossom water; Myer lemon is an adequate substitute for if you’re unable to find yuzu.

For the purée, Khalifa says you can use ordinary canned beets and incorporate a clove-infused simple sugar — to make the simple sugar, use equal parts water and sugar, adding ground up cloves to taste. Boil until the sugar and cloves dissolve and allow to cool before incorporating into the beets.

Khalifa recommends serving this cocktail on the rocks or as a martini.

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