What I’ve Been Drinking of Late, Part 11

A Japanese craft gin that celebrates the bounty of spring.
A Japanese craft gin that celebrates the bounty of spring.

Roku Gin

The lovely aroma of soft citrus, grassy leaves, and green tea wafts gently from a bottle of Suntory’s Roku Gin.

It’s no surprise that this Japanese gin, of which I received a sample, evokes the lightness and freshness of spring. After all, “roku” means “six” in Japanese, and this gin is crafted with six Japanese botanicals that were harvested at peak season in spring. They include: sakura (cherry blossom) flowers and leaves, Sencha tea, Gyokura tea, Sansho pepper, and yuzu peel.

The result is a smooth sip with juniper and coriander much more dialed down in favor of delicate yet complex floral and lemon-mandarin orange characteristics that give way at the very end to a subtle peppery pop.

Enjoy it in a G&T or muddled with strawberries or raspberries.

A 750ml bottle is $28.99 at Total Wine & More, $26.99 at BevMo! and $31.99 at Target.

Cheers: Roku Gin comes in a weighty glass bottle etched with cherry blossoms, making it perfect for gift-giving.

Yebiga Bela Rakija

If you’ve never had or heard of Rakija, you’re in good company.

My curiosity about this Balkan fruit brandy was piqued when I received a sample of Yebiga Bela Rakija recently. It’s importer, surprisingly enough, is Bill Gould, bassist for the San Francisco rock band, Faith No More.

Gould apparently fell for the spirit on his worldwide travels. The brandy has a centuries’ long history in Serbia, with generations of families distilling it from their backyard plums much like moonshine.

The Bela, made from čačanska rodna plums, has 40 percent alcohol by volume, less than other Rakijas. The clear spirit definitely has a boozy warmth going down but not the scorching burn. Unlike Chinese plum wine that has dominant fruitiness but also heavy sweetness, the Bela has a more subtle, natural plum taste, along with the light fragrance of roses, and a bit of viscosity on the body.

Get to know Serbian plum brandy.
Get to know Serbian plum brandy.

It’s typically served straight at room temperature. But if you add a big ice cube, I won’t tell. Mixologists have also been experimenting with cocktails made with the Bela. It may be sacrilege, but I can almost envision a fun cocktail served in a glass rimmed with a little li hing mui powder to double-down on the plum presence.

A 750ml bottle is $29.99 at retailers and liquor stores in California, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Washington, D.C.

Cheers: The Yebiga web site lists some alleged other uses of Rakija, which will be eye-opening, including as a gargle for sore throats, a treatment for mosquito bites, a stain remover for clothes, a car window de-icer, and a soak for sore feet.

2020 Girasole Vineyards Rose

Think strawberries, raspberries and a touch of summer watermelon in a glass. That’s what this 2020 Girasole Vineyards Rose is like.

A blend of organic Pinot Noir and Zinfandel grapes from Mendocino, the wine, of which I received a sample, is crisp and breezy, and everything you want in a summer sip. In fact, this pale millennium pink-hued rose garnered 89 points from Wine Enthusiast. At $15, it delivers way more than the price point indicates.

A rose to take you happily through summer and beyond.
A rose to take you happily through summer and beyond.

Producing satisfying wines at affordable prices was the hallmark of founder, the late Charrie Barra, who planted his first vineyards in Mendocino in 1955. He is considered the godfather of Mendocino grape-growing for his leadership in pioneering more efficient and sustainable methods, and for promoting organic practices. The legacy of his 350-acre estate continues under the management of his widow Martha Barra.

Cheers: The Barra family also produce fine wines under the Barra of Mendocino label. If you visit the Barra tasting room, you can taste wines from both Barra and Girasole. Best yet, the tasting fee is a modest $10 per person, which is applied to any wine purchase.

More: What I’ve Been Drinking of Late, Part 8

And: What I’ve Been Drinking of Late, Part 9

And: What I’ve Been Drinking of Late, Part 10

And: What I’ve Been Drinking of Late, Part 12

And: What I’ve Been Drinking of Late, Part 13

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