The Winter Solstice is upon us, celebrated in Japan with customs including taking a yuzu bath ゆず湯. You may have heard of yuzu in this year’s Bake Off, since this cheeky little citrus number kept popping up. A winter fruit the size of a small lemon, yuzu is known for its cleansing and healing properties, packed full of vitamin C. Tossing a few yuzu whole into bathwater, or adding a few drops of yuzu essence, is said to help rejuvenate and ward off illness in these cold, dark days. The lovely, mood-boosting fragrance smells so good that you’ll notice many perfumes are actually yuzu scented.
We mix up some lemons with yuzu juice in our bathwater.
The winter season in Japan also means you’ll find yuzu everywhere: from yuzu-flavoured KitKats to yuzu tea. It’s sweet, tart and tangy in flavour, somewhere between a grapefruit and an orange.
And whilst difficult to find fruit whole in Europe, the juice and zest are readily available. Recently, craft breweries have begun using yuzu to flavour beer, especially pale ales and wheat beers, which benefit from the light burst of acidic, citrus sweetness it brings. And in cocktails, yuzu acts as a great alternative to lemon or orange, adding sweet complexity without overpowering other flavours.
We’ve done all the hard work and tried out some boozy recipes. For cocktails worthy of a Wes Anderson movie, here are some ways to add an exotic citrusy yuzu spice this Christmas.
Very Tokyo hotel bar. Combine in a shaker 50ml of whisky, 1 egg white (or aquafaba), a tablespoon each of lemon and yuzu juice and a tablespoon of Japanese kuromitsu (or molasses, or honey) and dry shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Add large ice cubes and shake again until chilled. Strain into glasses and garnish with a few drops of Peychaud’s or Angostura bitters.
Good enough to eat with a spoon. In a blender mix 50ml of sake, 20ml of gin, a tablespoon of lemon juice, 4 tablespoons of yuzu juice, 5 tablespoons of cooled simple syrup (that’s equal parts sugar and water, dissolved over heat) and a cup of ice. Blend until fully mixed. Pour into glasses or drink directly from the blender, as you like.
Wet the rim of your glasses with a lemon slice and then dip in sugar. Mix a slice of ginger, a few ice cubes and a tablespoon of simple syrup. Muddle vigorously. Add the ginger mixture to a tablespoon of yuzu juice and 50ml of vodka in a shaker with ice and shake to blend and chill. Strain the drink into the rimmed glasses and garnish with lemon or yuzu rind.
A refreshing twist on the classic drink. Add 3 tablespoons of yuzu juice, 150ml of gin, a couple of dashes of vanilla extract, 4 tablespoons of cooled simple syrup and a few ice cubes to a cocktail shaker. Shake shake shake until it’s all chilled. Pour the mixture into two glasses over ice and top each with 75ml of club soda.
One for all your sour pusses out there. Rub a wedge of lime around the rim of your glasses and dip in coarse salt. In a shaker, add together 50ml of mezcal joven, a spoonful each of agave syrup, yuzu juice, lime juice and a dash of lemon juice and Bittermens Orange Cream Bitters. Add a few ice cubes and shake until well chilled. Strain into the prepared glasses over fresh ice and garnish with lime wedges.