If you're stressed about traveling this holiday season, try this: head to Ace for a ticket to a remote Pacific island. That ticket is a tiki-inspired cocktail created last week by bar manager Randy Layman, who calls it the Mount Fuji. It's his latest addition to Ace's cocktail menu, and it evokes the refreshing, coconut-infused libations perfect for sipping while swinging in a hammock. And that little vacation will only cost you ten bucks.
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"It's one of the few images that strikes up an emotion when thinking about the East," Layman says about Mount Fuji, Japan's iconic, snow-covered mountain. He took inspiration for the name of his newest cocktail from that mountain, but also from the generous amount of sake in the beverage.
Layman's Mount Fuji contains green tea-infused gin, unfiltered sake, coconut water, lime juice and almond syrup. Those ingredients are shaken over ice, then strained over fresh ice into a tall, bamboo-shaped glass, and garnished with a lime wheel and a large mint sprig.
"I love this drink because it's a gin cocktail," Layman says, "but it's not a Negroni, and it's not a gin martini. It's not big and in your face." Layman chose Death's Door gin for its subtle flavor profile: most gins are distilled with several botanicals, but Death's Door contains only juniper, fennel and coriander. Layman takes the gin in a decidedly Asian direction by dropping bags of green tea into it and letting the flavors mingle.
"We could have infused a vodka," Layman explains, "but those extra botanicals just give it a little more depth. The juniper pairs with the green tea really well."
But the main component of the drink is sake. "I really like using sake in cocktails," Layman says. "It's a great way to add texture." That is especially true of the variety of sake he chose: nigori. This milky, unfiltered sake gives the drink a cloudy appearance, and also imparts flavors reminiscent of melon and tropical fruit. "It has a great, clean, full-bodied texture," Layman adds. "You're not really bombing the palate -- or the cocktail -- with a lot of really big flavors; you're getting really subtle nuances."
Coconut water connects his drink to tropical climes, but Layman likes it as an ingredient for more than just its flavor. "I love the minerality of coconut water, more than the actual coconut flavor," he says. "It adds just a little bit of backbone and it works really well with gin."
Finally, lime juice and almond syrup are added to complete the recipe.
"One of the beautiful things about tiki cocktails," Layman explains, "is that they are meant to transport you to a place that you can't go right away, which is one of the reasons I love that style of drink. It also plays very well with the Asian kitchen that we have here at Ace. I love this cocktail with some of the spicier dishes"
Layman recommends drinking a Mount Fuji with Ace's Mongolian beef ($11, with water chestnuts, gai lan, white onions, jasmine rise and Thai bird chilies), or the spicy pork ramen ($11, with ground pork, wheat noodles, baby corn, pickled carrots and butter).
Because it's balanced between the gin and the sake, Mount Fuji is appealing to people who don't like gin. "It's an interesting cocktail, Layman says. "We've got a couple of people that aren't into gin to buy it and love it and get excited about it." It's already a staff favorite, he adds.
Layman calls his drink "a little ten-dollar vacation" that can take you away to a warmer locale. That's perfect for winter as Denver--and Mount Fuji--are covered with snow.
"It can transport you there," he says, "one glass at a time."
Mount Fuji 2 ounces nigori sake 1 ounce green tea-infused Death's Door gin 2 ounces coconut water .75 ounce fresh lime juice .75 ounce almond syrup
Shaken all ingredients and strain over ice into a tall glass. Garnish with a mint spring and a lime wheel.
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