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As a glutton for gimmicks, it was time to try the $39 cocktail at Sakerum dubbed “The Wandering Samurai.” The one introduced here as Mixtress Gina Chersevani’s “mic drop” cocktail. It comes with six slices of sashimi (tuna, salmon, and yellowtail) on a bed of crushed ice that forms an igloo over a potion of sake, white rum, yuzu, pineapple, bitters, and two flaming shots of Hamilton 151 rum.
Only, “The Wandering Samurai” touted in every pre-opening story of 14th Street’s newest Latin-meets-Asian restaurant is no where to be found on the cocktail menu Thursday night. No worries, a bartender says he can whip one up. “We wanted it to be a secret menu sort of thing,” he explains. Though, it’s possible the drink is sitting in safe keeping until the bar team finds its footing because it takes about 15 minutes to make.
Here’s the good news for both your wallet and the bar team—the big ticket drink isn’t the best pick—especially since the price will jump to $50 once it makes its appearance on the final menu (the restaurant is still in soft open mode). The crushed ice melts like Antarctica in the modern era, only 10,000 times faster, quickly diluting the punch it shelters. You can’t taste anything but the yuzu, which is a win for yuzu fans but a loss if the peculiar Japanese citrus twists your tastebuds.
The freaky tiki drink has something going for it besides being an Instagram hit. It’s the sashimi. Left to shine on its own without all the flash bang of one of the restaurant’s fancy sushi rolls, it becomes clear that Sakerum is working with top ocean products. The thick cuts of raw fish taste super fresh, so skip the cocktail bowl and save those dollar bills for sashimi (offered by the slice or in a 12-piece assortment).
More good news? The drinks that do currently appear on the cocktail menu are winners, especially the “I Think I’m Turning Japanese, I Really Think So” with rum, Amaro Sfumato, Angostura bitters, and Orange Citrate Bitters ($12). It’s dark and broody like an Old Fashioned, but with rum. Another best bet is the piña colada impersonating “Naughty Pirate” with rum, coconut milk, pineapple juice, lime juice, and nutmeg ($11).
There are plenty of drinkable treasures at the gorgeous, gold-gilded restaurant, skipping “The Wandering Samurai” means you can try more of them.
Sakerum, 2204 14th St. NW; (202) 518-2222; sakerum.com