Serious Eats: Drinks
So This Exists: Spherified Sake Dai-drop at Daikaya, Washington DC
Sake bombs aren't typically spoken of in the same sentences as the words 'subtle' or 'inventive'. There's probably very little thought at all that usually goes into a sake bomb beyond the act of dropping a shot glass into a beer. But when chef Katsuya Fukushima and bar director Eddie Kim of DC's newly minted izakaya, Daikaya (our first look here), introduced their own version of the sake bomb, there was little question that it would be something unique.
The Dai-drop ($7 each; 6 for $35) is a high-minded take on a decidedly low brow imbiber's pasttime. Originating from a brainstorming session where a running joke began about naming cocktails with ridiculous puns (Bruce Lychee anyone?), Fukushima hatched the idea of spherified sake. No stranger to molecular gastronomy, (Fukushima worked at minibar under José Andrés) he taught the basics of the process of spherification to Kim (himself formerly of Room 11) to develop and complete.
Using a compound of calcium chloride and sodium alginate (a naturally occurring substance derived from brown algae), the sake is encapsulated within a thin film that bursts under light pressure. The development process took several weeks in order to get the chemistry just right (having to consider the effect of alcohol and sugar on the freezing point) and the Dai-drop only became available a week after opening. The end result is a small ball of spherified Geikkeikan sake flavored with a little yuzu, which also imparts some opacity to the sphere so you're able to see it when it's dropped into a small glass of Sapporo or Asahi.
The process with which one tosses one of these back also requires more consideration than the everyday sake bomb. If you try to chug it mindlessly, you'll make the same mistake I did at first and end up swallowing the sake sphere whole. Instead, take your time, and with the last swallow of beer, bite down on the sphere slightly and the sake will burst and mix with the Sapporo already in your mouth. It's a sudden—and surprising—sake bomb experience.
The Dai-drop is currently the only spherification going on at Daikaya, but Kim raises the tantalizing prospect of a Dark and Stormy with spherified rum. Don't expect them to start spherifying everything though. As co-owner Daisuke Utagawa puts it, "It needs to be special; we don't want to start being like Die Hard Three, Four, and Five."