Summertime eats in Little Tokyo. You know the usual: Holding an Imagawayaki from Obon Festivals, smelling yakitori from Nisei Week, and savoring a matcha soft serve while listening to the beat of Taiko drums. Festivals aside, Go Little Tokyo, a community cultural awareness program arranged a culinary experience called “Delicious Little Tokyo” during the weekend from July 29-July 31st. Participating eateries (Found on an passport or their website) gave certain incentives ranging from a percentage off your bill to free items with purchase. In addition, special events coincided with these dates, making it a true food adventure within the waking radius of Little Tokyo.
Though I would’ve loved to attend the 10th annual sake & food tasting, I caught a glimpse of the very last food event at Wolf & Crane. The name originates from the fables of Aesop, where the Honshu Wolf and the Red Crowned Crane are sacred animals to the Japanese folklore which interprets into guardian and prosperity, respectively. It can be a little difficult to find this place due to lack of signage, but it’s just North of a Subway shop on 2nd street. Upon entrance, you’ll find a large wall of whiskey selection. (And that is what this place is known for) But if you like craft beer, they have those too.
If you’re lucky enough, you’ll meet up with Daniel, the bar manager who knows his craft. And according to Daniel, Wolf & Crane is more of a “neighborhood bar”. It just happens they carry pretty much all of the selections of Japanese whiskey due to customer demand. You’ll find Ohishi, Fukano, Hakushu, Yamazaki, Yoichi, Miyagikyo, Chichibu, Hibiki among others. And according to Daniel, the Japanese is all about the “approach to making a cocktail.” You will find the Japanese bars make hold a cup a certain way, pour a exact number of seconds, and the guy behind the counter with wearing a suit. As for the US counterparts, the whiskey bars are more about flavors. Making each drink and taking the layers of flavors to the next level.
In the last few years, the art of Japanese whiskey have evolved. Japan have outranked Scotland (ie. Yamazaki 2013 Sherry Cask) in numbers of awards. If you are a fan of Hibiki or Jim Beam, you are now drinking a Japanese owned product by Suntory. Nikka, the other powerhouse in the Japanese whiskey arena, also has a number of awards including Yoichi’s Distillery manager of the year in 2016.
Wolf & Crane has four additional in-house mixologists, whom all contributed to part of this cocktail demo. They are all super friendly here and on Sundays, it’s an all day and all night happy hour. I recommend coming here then, not as crowded and parking is slightly easier and a lot cheaper if you can find a meter.
Drinks at the Demo: Three drinks were freshly made in tasting glasses.
Old Fashioned (Stirred)
2 oz Whiskey (Rye, Bourbon, Japanese), 1 sugar cube, 3 dash bitters, splash soda, muddle, orange peel.
For the traditionalist like me, the old fashioned is quite nice. It feels like comfort in your hands. It’s a simple drink I’m very fond of. Of course, you have to release the oil from the orange peel slice to give it that extra layer of oomph. It was my favorite.
1.5 oz Shishito infused dry gin, .75 simple syrup, 3/4 fresh lime juice, garnish with shishito pepper.
The O’Shito! (See profile pic) is a combination of sweet and sour with a hint of spiciness. At Wolf & Crane, they infuse the dry gin with shishito peppers and a glass is garnished with one as well. According to bar manager Daniel, “only one in ten of these peppers would be spicy”. Lucky for me, I didn’t get it but the person next to me did. It’s like Russian Roulette with drinks and you don’t die.
Tokyo Express (Shaken)
1.5 oz Japanese Whiskey, 0.5 oz orgeat, 0.5 oz pineapple juice, 0.75 lemon juice, 3 dash peppers, 2 dash celery bitters.
The Tokyo Express is surprisingly refreshing. It takes me back to my childhood as if I were sucking on a pineapple popsicle. Seconds later, a slow release of slight back-end heat will start appearing around the throat. The spritz of celery bitters were used here because it’s not as strong as regular bitters. Surprisingly delicious.
Thanks again Go Little Tokyo for this educational alcoholic event. It’s not every day you can try new adult drinks, so my liver thanks you. Hey, who doesn’t love free booze? (21+ and over of course). I’ll drink to that and hope to see you next year!
Wolf & Crane Bar