Slideshow: Bartender's Choice: Savory Japanese-Inspired Cocktails at Neta, NY

Owl of the Woods ($15)
Owl of the Woods ($15)
The base of this cocktail is Kiuchi No Shizuku—a whiskey from Kiuchi Brewery distilled from the remnants of the brewery's Hitachino Nest White Ale, then aged with coriander, hops, and orange peel. "It's funky, it's weird, it's almost unworkable, but I really wanted to use it." Polsky infused it with sautéed maitake mushrooms ("and we didn't even fatwash it—we let the fat stay on there, so there's a bit of a palate-coating thing that it does. I don't know of anything like it in a stirred cocktail"). Here, it meets chilled Japanese soba-cha, buckwheat tea. "I want to explore the use of nonalcoholic stirred modifiers—not just juices, but things like tea."

It's a new one that'll be on the menu later this week or early next.

Rishiri ($15)
Rishiri ($15)
"This one is something like a gin martini—but the proportions are different, and I'm using a different element for the vermouth." That would be sake infused with konbu and nori, "which ends up savory, clean, and botanically rich." It meets Hans Reisetbauer's Blue Gin, from Austria, "which is amazingly balanced— nothing overpowering, not too juniper-forward, but not really mellow, either. And it has a black pepper quality that works really well here." It's garnished with pickled daikon, "which I love with those seaweed flavors."
Savory Cocktail #3 ($15)
Savory Cocktail #3 ($15)
"I haven't really found a name for this one yet," laughs Polsky. It's easily the most hard-line savory cocktail on the menu—except for maybe a Bloody Mary, I've never had a cocktail with fish in it. Hakushu, a single malt Japanese whiskey, is infused with bonito before it meets Tenryo Hidahomare, a junmai ginjo sake ("which is already really meaty and savory") and Bushmills Irish Whiskey ("whose maltiness pairs well with the smokiness"). It's higher in alcohol than the others and the taste is unmistakably fishy—"It's unusual for sure, and pronounced in flavor, but bonito is a great flavor enhancer; that's what I want it to be doing here."

Another new one that'll be on the menu in the coming days.

Pouring the 'Electric China Sea Test'
Pouring the 'Electric China Sea Test'
"It's the most accessible thing on our menu, pleasant and herbaceous; it's one that enlivens your palate."
Electric China Sea Test ($15)
Electric China Sea Test ($15)
It's a sour with a yellow wood sorrel syrup, gin, and an infusion of Sichuan peppercorns in a neutral grain spirit. "Sichuan peppercorns give you that tingle, but here it's just a little around the edges." Polsky sees it as a good entry point into the menu. "Cool, you've had something refreshing and sour. Now try something with fish in it..."
Cherry Blossom Special ($15)
Cherry Blossom Special ($15)
"I got this name from a Johnny Cash song, Orange Blossom Special." The anchor of this cocktail comes from cherry blossoms preserved in salt and sugar—"We then rinse them, and pour hot simple syrup over them to steep them, but some of that salty-umami quality still really hangs on." From there, it's shaken with lemon, Johnny Drum bourbon, and High West’s Silver Rye, then poured into a glass primed with Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale. "This cocktail really needs a well-integrated, interesting ale"—before, Polsky liked the Elysian Jasmine IPA he had been using, but enjoys the switch. "That extra savory note means this cocktail really undulates, and it changes if you drink it slowly."