Drink Your Mushrooms?
Save your side eye for more questionable content; the idea of infusing mushrooms into drinks is nothing new. Add them to coffee or tea and call them nootropics, but at the end of the day, you’re staring down the same thing at the bottom of your glass. Though medicinal mushrooms are billed as a silent partner, contributing to your wellness cache without being outspoken about it, there’s no reason why bolder fungi can’t belly up to the bar.
Shiitake, The Original Flavor Enhancer
As we’ve discussed before, Sugimoto Shiitake are on a whole different level from the average spore. Rich with free glutamates that create an unmistakable savory flavor, it’s easy to leverage their inherent wealth of aroma and unique pungency to enhance any dish. The concept certainly doesn’t end when happy hour strikes.
When used properly, shiitake in any form elevates the subtle nuances in all the components that coalesce into a carefully curated, intentional eating or drinking experience. Like salt, it should never taste overtly salty (or mushroomy, in this case), but allow the other players to shine as their best, truest selves.
Why A Shiitake Cocktail Just Works
There’s real scientific evidence supporting the use of shiitake in mixology. To better understand why this pairing works, let’s break down the primary tasting notes:
Remind you of anything else? Yes, whiskey is a match made in heaven for this umami infusion! That’s why my Umami Old Fashioned is a foolproof twist on the classic cocktail that will never let you down.
How To Make An Umami Old Fashioned
The classic old fashioned is one of the easiest cocktails you could pour. Just four ingredients stand between you and that first bold, bracing sip: whiskey, sugar, bitters, and orange peel. To add some extra umami into the equation, we need to factor in two more ingredients: dried shiitake and time.
- Begin by crumbling 1 large koshin shiitake cap into 2 ounces of bitters. Add 2 ounces of water, since the mushrooms will absorb some of that as they rehydrate. Cover and let sit for 24 hours in a dark, cool place. Strain out the shiitake pieces (which are brilliant in risottos or stews) and store the umami bitters in a bottle with a dropper.
- To make the cocktail itself, combine simple syrup and a few drops of umami bitters in a glass with 1 – 2 ice cubes. Simple syrup dissolves more easily than granulated sugar, and can be made with a simple ratio of 1 part sugar to 2 parts water. Simmer and then let cool in advance, storing it in a glass bottle at room temperature until ready to use.
- Add the whiskey and stir for about 30 seconds to combine. Pour into a clean glass with fresh ice. Twist a piece of orange peel over the top to release the essential oils before placing it in the glass.
- Completely optional, but if desired, garnish with a luxardo cherry; literally the cherry on top.
Since a little bit goes a long way when we’re talking about bitters, even this small amount should last a good while. Don’t reserve your supply only for cocktails; it’s a rich flavoring agent for a wide range of cooking applications too. Consider incorporating it into:
Once you start sipping, you’ll never want to stock the bar without this secret ingredient again. Cheers, to a new fashioned Old Fashioned that can keep up with the times.