Fun with Tea at The Violet Hour

By

Lisa Elbert
Megan Swann
Houjicha-infused Lichiko Schochu, Watermelon Juice, Lime, Simple Syrup, Apricot Liqueur, and Orange Peel
Houjicha-infused Lichiko Schochu, Watermelon Juice, Lime, Simple Syrup, Apricot Liqueur, and Orange Peel

“Fuck me that’s good,” said Toby Maloney—a partner at Chicago cocktail temple The Violet Hour—when he first tasted 2015 Rising Star Bartender Tyler Fry's drink Suika-Wari. “It's one of the biggest departures we’ve ever had [at The Violet Hour],” says Fry, who relishes introducing patrons to “weird” ingredients, of which the Suikawari has in spades.

Fry studied Japanese tea for years before finding his calling behind the bar. Named for a Japanese watermelon smashing contest (think melon as piñata, but with a wooden swordYoutube it), the Suika-Wari contains 2 ounces Houjicha-infused Lichiko Shōchū, 1 ½ ounces watermelon juice, ¾ ounce lime, ¾ ounce simple syrup, and ¼ ounce Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot liqueur. Let's dive in…

Distilled from barley, Lichiko Shōchū does not have a categorical home among spirits, but fits well into the sake family—at least as a distant cousin. Houjicha is a common (read: cheap) Japanese tea, which Fry toasts and infuses into the Shōchū, giving it rich caramel notes and a bangin’ body. This funky, tannic, sweet, refreshing, low-ABV cocktail is a total smash—blindfold not required. 

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