Behind the Bar with Sen Restaurant

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BoozeMenus goes behind the bar with Beverage Director Derek Nielsen of Sen Restaurant to get the inside scoop on sake and cocktails.

Eliza: Do you think sake cocktails and sake in general are steadily growing in popularity?

Derek: The thing with sake is that the majority of it is so delicate in it's nature, that it's difficult to mix items with it without destroying it's original flavors. So you definitely can mix and be innovative, but you have to show restraint when making a cocktail with sake. There are some sakes out there that have a stronger and more pronounced flavor that they could handle mixing with other flavors in a cocktail.

Eliza: Can you tell me about a particular sake that does mix well with other ingredients in a cocktail?

Derek: Taru Sake is awesome and is aged in cedar. So anything using it in something like a whiskey based cocktail - an old fashioned, for example, would work with Taru. For other whiskey cocktails, soju is also often used because it can stand up to the other ingredients.

Eliza: Is there a particular type of cocktail that you think pairs really well with fish, sushi in particular?

Derek: Anything that is fresh and crisp will usually go well with sushi and sashimi. Unless you're ordering eel or something that's a bit more smoky and savory, we generally stick with light and delicate drinks to pair with the fresh fish. We also like to just freestyle for people who aren't quite sure what they like. Whether it's sake or beer or a cocktail, asking people a few questions about what they like, we can usually find something that will please everyone.

Eliza: I see you guys make a housemade yuzu for some of your cocktails. What exactly is yuzu?

Derek: Yuzu is a japanese citrus fruit. It would be if a lime, lemon and clementine got together and had a fruit baby. Being that it's New York City, we are able to get them fresh every day and incorporate them into our cocktail program.

Eliza: Cruising a big sake list is a little daunting for people who aren't so sure what type of sake they're into....

Derek: It is, which is why we've included a little graph next to each. You can see each sake's characteristics to help you choose one suitable for your palate.  And every guest that comes in has a different palate, so we help by asking people what types of wines they usually like, whether it's dry, full bodied, fruity, whatever their preference, we can always find some type of sake they'll enjoy. 

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By Eliza Czander

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