Wine & Spirits: Cheers for Cherry Blossoms

Washington D.C. is awash with pink blooms, and area bars are mixing up some cherry-licious libations to match.
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The Achors Aweigh cocktail at the St. Regis Bar celebrates the yearly arrival of those pink blooms by the Tidal Basin.

The 2011 National Cherry Blossom Festival kicks off on March 26 and runs until April 10. The much-anticipated yearly festival celebrates spring in DC, the gift of the cherry blossom trees and the enduring friendly between the people of the United States and Japan. This year’s festival is especially poignant because of the recent disaster in Japan.

On March 24 beginning at 6:30 PM, the festival organizers invite you to Stand with Japan at the Washington monument, followed by a walk around the Tidal Basin in the spirit of hope and rebuilding. All donations received throughout the fundraising effort will go directly to the National Cherry Blossom Festival Red Cross Online Donation Site, benefiting the Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami fun. If you can’t make it that day, you can donate on the Cherry Blossom’s website.

In addition to the festival’s main event—the gorgeous pink-tinged trees—area restaurants are featuring cherry-inspired and cherry-flavored dishes and libations. Here are a few to look for, and how to recreate them at home.

Over at gastropub AGAINN (1099 New York Avenue NW), bartenders are offering a variety of blossom-inspired creations including the Cheerio. This aromatic sipper can be made with gin or vodka, and has a smattering of Danish Cherry Heering Liqueur. A few drops of rosewater give the drink a whiff of floral—look for rosewater at international markets or in some drugstores. You can easily make the brandied garnish by soaking pitted fresh cherries in whatever mixture of booze you like—I add mine to brandy, rum and a little Bourbon. Store them in a refrigerator in a Mason jar or container with a tightly fitting lid—they only get better with time.

Cheerio
Courtesy of AGAINN
1 ½ oz. gin or vodka
½ oz. simple syrup
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
¾ oz. egg white
½ oz. Cherry Heering
4 drops rosewater
Brandied cherry, for garnish

Add all ingredients except Cherry Heering into Boston shaker.  Add ice, shake vigorously and double strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Pour Cherry Heering down the side of the glass so it sinks to the bottom. Add four drops of rosewater and garnish with a brandied cherry.

The Plums Blossom cocktail at Poste Brasserie.

At Poste Brasserie (555 8th Street, NW), The Plums Blossom is a cherry-infused sake cocktail finished with plum soda. Its base spirit is Square One Botanical, which I like to refer to as a “juniperless gin.” If you are put off by gin’s “Christmas tree” aromas, you might want to give this booze a try. I think it works well in this drink because its included botanicals don’t overwhelm the delicate cherry and plum flavors. Poste bartender says he was inspired by Japanese sake and wanted to try infusing it with black cherries. “The end result, when mixed with Square One Botanical, is a cocktail that has a sweet herbal flavor—perfect for springtime.”

The Plums Blossom

Courtesy of Poste Brasserie
¾ oz. Square One Botanical
1 ¼ oz. house made Black Cherry-Infused Sake (to replicate at home, macerate pitted cherries in Sake for 24 hours or to taste, then double strain through a mesh sieve)
1 tsp. plum preserves (you can find these in an Asian market)
Club soda
3 plum slices, for garnish

Add Square One Botanical, house made black cherry-infused sake and plum preserves to a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously. Strain into Collins glass filled with ice. Top with club soda, and garnish with 3 plum slices.

The Park Hyatt Washington (1201 24th St. NW) offers the effervescent Sakura cocktail exclusively in its 60-seat

lounge. It’s topped with Virginia sparkling wine from Thibault-Janisson, which delivers the intoxicating cherry scent right up to your nose…

The Park Hyatt Washington's bubbly- and sake-based Sakura cocktail.

Sakura
Courtesy of the Park Hyatt Washington
1 oz. Prairie Organic Vodka
½ oz. cherry puree (pit cherries and blend until smooth. For a finer texture strain after pureeing)
½ oz. simple syrup
1 dash Fee Brothers Cherry Bitters
Va de Vi sparkling wine
1 cherry, for garnish

Add vodka, cherry puree and simple syrup in a cocktail shake. Add ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a Champagne flute. Add cherry bitters. Top with sparkling wine and garnish with a cherry.

If you take your cherries with whiskey and cream, the St. Regis Bar has the Anchors Aweigh on the menu this spring. It gets a kick from Bourbon, softened a bit by two kinds of brandy and half and half.

Anchors Aweigh
Courtesy of the St. Regis Bar
1 ½ oz. Bourbon
2 tsp. cherry brandy
2 tsp. peach brandy
2 tsp. Triple Sec
2 tbsp. half and half

Add all to a shaker. Fill with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled Old-Fashioned glass. Alternatively, you can blend the drink with ice.

Kelly Magyarics is a wine and spirits writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, DC area. She can be reached through her website, www.kellymagyarics.com, or on www.twitter.com/kmagyarics.

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