For World Bee Day, Manuel Palermo of Testuya’s in Australia carefully assembles a collection of diverse flavors to harmonise with a distinct-tasting Tasmanian honey.
As an Italian bartender working in Tetsuya’s, a Sydney-based restaurant where Japanese food is twisted with European influences, conceiving a drink that tips its hat to all these contrastive cultures must have felt like the perfect professional conundrum for Manuel Palermo.
On arrival in Australia, he was drawn to a uniquely Australian culinary staple: honey made from the nectar of Tasmanian leatherwood trees. These ancient trees, which only begin to flower when they have reached 75-years-old, are included on Ark of Taste, the Slow Food movement’s list of at-risk heritage plants. They are endangered from logging, drought and forest fires, so supporting the bees that make this mono-floral honey is part of a crucial jigsaw of sustainable measures.
Manuel has paired the honey’s distinct camphorous, caramel and balsamic palate with grassy Japanese matcha, delicate sake, the heat of homemade chilli bitters and the citrus burst of shiso leaves. Set over a single piece of cubed ice, the drink is finally topped with Champagne.
Equally evocative of Australia, Japan and France, the Hachimitsu Cocktail (that’s Japanese for honey) is a supremely complex yet elegant harmony of international flavors.
This drink requires you to make the syrup and bitters in advance, but when you’re done you’ll have enough syrup for around ten cocktails and plenty of bitters for many more than that.
Honey and matcha syrup: Combine 60ml of Leatherwood honey with 60ml of warm water and stir well. Once the honey is fully dissolved, add two grams of green matcha powder and stir again. Once cool, bottle and refrigerate for up to one month – note that its colour will change after the first few days as the tea continues to oxidise.
Homemade chilli bitters: Infuse 120ml of vodka with five long red chillies and three Bird’s Eye chillies. Leave for 12 hours in a warm place, then discard (and compost) the chillies.
Muddle two of the shiso leaves at the bottom of a cocktail shaker (use the end of a rolling pin if you don’t have a muddler), pressing gently to release their flavors without bruising.
Add the sake, syrup and chilli bitters, then throw in a good handful of ice cubes.
Shake it vigorously for 15 seconds, then strain over a single large rock of ice in a thick-bottomed Old Fashioned glass.
Top with Champagne and garnish with a fresh shiso leaf.