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Bartender: Joe Ambrose
Where: POV Lounge at W Washington, D.C. hotel, 515 15th St. NW
Mystery Ingredient: Wasabi powder
Bartender Response: “I was kind of relieved,” Ambrose said. “I do hot [cocktails] all the time.” Then he tried a bit of the powder and found it “a lot less potent than I thought.” So now the challenge was to make sure the drink had enough wasabi kick.
What We Got: A wasabi ginger-infused rye cocktail with pear and lemon juice. Ginger slices floated on a perfect, giant square ice cube (naturally, since Ambrose is behind boutique ice company Favourite Ice). Ambrose used an iSi Cream Whipper to instantly infuse the ginger and wasabi.
How It Tasted: There was a lot of ginger, in a good way. The drink had that spicy, clean ginger taste, and the wasabi’s heat was indeed mellow. It didn’t hit until the very end, with almost a tickle in the back of your throat. The pear fit in well, too. “Rye goes well with spicy ginger,” Ambrose explained, noting that the cocktail was almost a riff on a Presbyterian, or rye and ginger ale.
Improv Points (1 to 5): 4. I’m always thankful when a bartender avoids the bloody mary route with a savory ingredient. The wasabi and ginger pairing reminded me of sushi, too. In this cocktail, the combo of the two tempered the sweet pear. It was spicy, but not so much so that you couldn’t picture yourself ordering another one.
Recipe: 2 1/4 ounces wasabi ginger and rye infusion* 3/4 ounce lemon juice 3/4 ounce simple syrup 1/2 pear juice
Combine ingredients, shake over ice, strain into glass. Add one large ice cube and ginger slices for garnish.
* Combine 1 teaspoon of wasabi powder, one small piece of ginger cut into slices, and 2 ounces of Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye. Add ingredients in an iSi Cream Whipper, put top on, charge with nitrous oxide, then let air out of the canister. Take the top off, pour contents back through strainer. Alternatively, combine the ingredients in a blender and strain.
Photo by Adele Chapin