Wednesday, February 23, 2011


I love the taste of shiso.

It is magnificently clean and fresh with hints of mint, anise and pepper.  However, fresh shiso is nearly impossible to find in Boston.  At least, so I thought.  My friend pointed it out to me in the hole-in-the-wall Korean market across the street from Blanchard's in Allston, and I was absolutely ecstatic.  My understanding upon internet research is that Japanese and Korean varietals of perilla/shiso differ slightly in flavor, and I do get a bit of that sense after nibbling on a bit.  Nevertheless, I find it similar enough to call it a successful find.  I've been hooked on shiso ever since stumbling across shiso with sushi, and all the cocktail forms of shiso I've had, particularly at Angel's Share in New York, have been fantastic.

While the bulk of my shiso bunch from the Korean mart went into infusions, one vodka and one gin (the results of which will have to wait for another day), I just couldn't help myself with a bit of instant gratification.  Saving a lone shiso leaf, a fairly large one at that, I decided that something simple and straightforward would be best.

Shiso julep
1.5 oz Four Roses bourbon
Dash of agave nectar*
1 Shiso leaf
Muddled. Crushed ice.

*I didn't have any simple syrup on hand..

Ahh, refreshing.  Shiso works well as a mint substitute, but definitely brings its own identity to the mix.  Despite being somewhat of a purist (I would never make a shiso julep on Derby Day), I really enjoyed this variation.  Probably another shiso leaf would have been ideal, but the lonely leaf employed was sufficient for a nice redolence of shiso.  Another idea that just struck me was the possibility of pairing shiso with applejack, given the slight green apple dimension that shiso can take on.  As with the previous pair of rosewater cocktails, this one was decidedly summery as well.  Alas, the mind cannot but dream.

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