If you’ve eaten at a sushi restaurant before, you’ve probably seen shiso. Shiso (also known as perilla), is a member of the mint family with broad jagged edged leaves. The green variety is often used as a garnish, but it also makes for a great herb, with a unique aroma, vaguely reminiscent of mint and cinnamon.
The red variety is much less common, and is primarily used for making pickles in Japan. It has a purply hue that turns vibrant magenta when something acidic is added (like Japanese ume plums). Red shiso has a more floral aroma, which makes it perfect for pairing with liqueurs like St. Germain, or Chambord, and it also goes really well with red fruit, like plums, strawberries and tomatoes.
Because I was planning to use it for making cocktails, I wanted a fairly strong infusion, so I let the leaves steep for thirty days. For serving it straight up, I’d suggest cutting back the infusion time to about a week. If you have trouble finding red shiso, try using green shiso (which any Japanese grocery store should carry). It will have a different flavour, but will taste great with all kinds of citrus (like grapefruit or lemon).
The shiso loses its brilliant reddish purple color during the infusion process, but this cocktail restores its magenta hue using wild blueberry and strawberry syrup. The floral St Germain, the ripe berries, and herby red shiso creates a wonderfully balanced cocktail that’s neither too sweet or nor too strong, and the splash of soda water brings the alcohol level down to the point where you can taste each one of the ingredients.
Red Shiso Cocktail
1 part lime juice
1 part strawberry blueberry syrup (strawberries and blueberries cooked with sugar then strained)
2 parts St Germain
3 parts red shiso infused vodka or shochu
Fill a shaker with ice and add the lime juice, syrip, St. Germain, and infused vodka. Shake vigorously and empty out into a martini glass. Top with soda water (should be about 2 parts stuff that comes out of the shaker to 1 part soda).