Sushi and sake may be natural bedfellows, but it's always good to know you've got options. Dedicated drinkers in New York City have learned to abandon preconceptions at Angel's Share, a discreet Japanese bar in the East Village, where a platoon of skinny no-nonsense bartenders perfect an East-meets-West cocktail shtick, like in the Old Folks, a combo of blended Scotch, Islay malt whiskey, and aged plum wine.
Angel's Share's ambience is Tarantino-meets-Wong Kar-Wai, and the best drinks have the touch of an auteur. Take the Daahoud, a 3-D movie in a glass with Bulleit rye whiskey, oloroso sherry, Benedictine, bitters, cinnamon, and cloves. It arrives at the table trailing plumes of scented smoke. There's something equally theatrical about dining at New York's red-hot Japanese restaurant, Cherry, beneath the Dream Downtown hotel.
Bar manager Warren Hode, who learned his craft at the venerable BondSt, has come up with several fine alternatives to the overdone saketini, including the Bordello, a bright, clean riff on a gimlet that deploys a housemade nectar of pressed cherry blossom leaves from Japan muddled with lime and cucumber, and shaken with a bison grass-infused vodka. It's a great trailer for the main event, the Cherry Bomb, a sweet-and-tart confection that uses un-aged tequila infused with cherry jam and finished with a pickled cherry. Hode has spent time studying Japanese cookbooks and makes his drinks with an eye on pairing complimentary ingredients: There's black pepper in the Cherry Bomb that marries well with the tequila; in the Ruby Pistol, the surprise is roasted beets and creme de cassis, the velvety sweetness balanced with spiky kaffir lime leaf and shaken with sake. It's about as far from your typical saketini as you can imagine -- unctuous and earthy, and well worth returning for.
The Ruby Pistol
2 1/2 ozs. dry Junmai sake
1/2 oz. vodka
1/4 oz. agave syrup
3/4 oz. pureed roasted beets (strained)
3/4 oz. creme de cassis
Kaffir lime leaves
Infuse a bottle of sake with kaffir lime leaves (an hour will do). Mix sake with vodka, agave syrup, pureed roasted beets, and creme de cassis. Shake and garnish with lime zest.