Sake has increasingly found credence in cocktails across the world. So here is Sakerinha for you
“Sake for you please?” asked the waiter. Sure, I said. Neutral, smooth, almost like flavoured water — that is what I thought of this quintessential Japanese drink when I took my first swallow in a Singapore restaurant some years ago, prodded by the eagerness of a waiter. I remember thinking how well it complemented the taste of the Oriental eats I had with it. One of these, I recall, was a dumpling with an ultra thin skin of rice flour wrapped around a whole prawn. With Sake, it was just divine.
Cut to urbane India of today and this Japanese rice beer is no Martian. It now is a given in many bar menu cards here, flavoured or plain, with sushi or otherwise. In fact, some of our bars have also caught up with the international trend of rolling out cocktails with Sake as the base. Sniffing for one such concoction, I land up at Nero, the smart bar at New Delhi's Le Meridien hotel. Atul Mehta, senior manager currently in charge of Nero, places his finger on Sakerinha, a hybrid version of Caipirinha, considered the national drink of Brazil.
“Sakerinha is one of our signature drinks,” says Atul, taking you through the sizeable menu card, claimed to be the city's longest with 68 cocktails.
As the name goes, Sake is the base for Sakerinha, replacing the white rum Cachaca used to make Caipirinha. A drink loaded with lemons, Caipirinha is a refreshing summer day brew. Sakerinha is no different. To roll out one, Atul puts chunks of lemon and a dash of white sugar into a muddler. He then picks a rock glass and puts crushed ice into it, stopping a little short of filling it to the brim. The muddled mixture is then emptied into it. Into this goes 90 ml of Sake. After a slight stir, the drink is ready, without any need for garnish.
“It is a clean drink, has a very clear flavour,” he says.
One nip at it and you know what he is referring to. Among customers at Nero, he says, “Sakerinha is picking up.” And yes, contrary to regular belief, those who find Sakerinha irresistible are not typically women but many men too. In the country of the Patiala peg, some things are changing, I say!