Uni, or sea urchin gonads, are orange lobes considered a delicacy in Japan and many other countries. Challenged by Union Sushi + Barbeque Bar bartender Ken Griggs to create a cocktail with the ingredient, Julia Momose of GreenRiver says, “It’s an odd organ to be using, but it’s got a pillowy, beautiful, custardlike texture. The flavor is like the sea. It’s really cool. . . . Hard to use in a cocktail, though.”
After briefly considering making a cocktail inspired by a classic uni cream sauce, Momose decided to go in a different direction, making something “very clean and delicate, as [uni] truly is the essence of the sea.” She chose to use scotch because of its almost briny quality, and employed Japanese ingredients that mimic the flavors of the ocean. Nori goes well with uni, Momose says; she made a tincture with the dried seaweed as a component of the cocktail. Another tincture featured sansho, a spice related to Szechuan peppercorns that has a numbing quality.
Momose made a third tincture with the uni itself—but that wasn’t the only form in which she used it. “Because uni is so well-known for its texture, I wanted to incorporate that in some form with the drink,” she says. “Instead of having an olive like you would with a martini, I have a little composed bite of uni with radish, a little bit of mint, and lemon-peel smoked salt, to give you the full uni experience.”
The cocktail’s last ingredient was fino sherry, which Momose describes as smooth, creamy, and a bit salty. The proportions of the ingredients, particularly the uni tincture, took a little finessing, she says. “A couple iterations got too fishy, a little unpleasant. It was a challenge finding the perfect balance of the other ingredients next to the uni in the cocktail.”
Momose has challenged Best Intentions bartender Calvin Marty to create a cocktail with celery root.
By the Sea
3 dashes uni tincture
.5 tsp nori tincture
1 tsp cane syrup
¾ oz Hidalgo fino sherry
2 oz Great King Street Artist’s Blend Scotch
Sansho tincture (in a spray bottle)
Uni lobe with radish, mint, and lemon-peel smoked salt
Add all ingredients to a glass filled with large ice cubes and stir until well chilled. Strain into a chilled glass. Finish with a spray of sansho tincture and serve with uni.