The cool bar trend these days seems to be to pick a spirit, then build as large a collection as possible with a couple rare bottles thrown in for bragging rights. One of the latest examples: Zentan, which is bulking up its sake selection and just launched a new drink menu with sake flights and a rare fermented rice beverage aged in Japanese whiskey barrels. Bartender Josh Berner is even experimenting with a sake, gin, and shrimp cocktail. (That’s right—a cocktail with shrimp, not a shrimp cocktail.)
Zentan joins a number of Japanese dining destinations with respectable sake selections, including Sushi Taro and Daikaya. (For a truly impressive collection, head to Pabu in Baltimore, which has more than 100 varieties curated by one of the country’s top sake experts.)
Zentan chef Jennifer Nguyen, Kimpton’s Master Sommelier Emily Wines (her real name, seriously), and assistant general manager Katie Miller assembled a list beginning with more than 20 bottles, most of which are also available by glass. The menu includes tasting notes and descriptors to educate diners. Flights with three 1.5-ounce pours are $20, or $12 during happy hour (weekdays from 3 to 7 p.m.).
Zentan also claims to be the first restaurant in the U.S. to carry Fukugao Shuzo from Japan’s Fukugao sake brewery. The spirit, which will be available next week, is aged for six months in Japanese whiskey barrels. A bottle goes for $18 and a three-ounce pour is $9.
As for that shrimp cocktail? Berner says when he previously worked at Cleveland Park’s Ripple, then-chef Logan Cox had commented that shrimp and juniper go really well together. Since then, Berner has wanted to create a shrimp and gin cocktail. “Now that I’m also working with sake, for some reason it just seems like a natural fit to put all three of those together,” he says. The concoction is still in the experimental phase, but Berner is playing with sake blended with shrimp shells and spherified shrimp broth pearls as a garnish.
For those feeling less adventurous, Zentan will debut a new cocktail menu in October with a focus on whiskey. (The current menu centers around gin.) Berner says he’s also thought about oysters in a whiskey drink, but for now, it’s just an idea.