Faith & Flower’s Lead Bartender Darwin Pornel enjoys playing with herbal notes in his drinks, especially as the heat of summer arrives.

For Pornel, shiso marries the best elements of lemon, basil, and mint into “some sort of weird, delicious offspring. It’s really vegetal, but super bright and crisp as well.” All elements that make for a delicious, clean, and refreshing drink.

Shiso is a member of the mint family and, until recently was little known outside Asian culinary circles. Now, bartenders, ever on the lookout for distinctive flavors, are excited about its use in cocktails. Pornel shares his thoughts about shiso below.

Shiso Leaves

Shiso Leaves

Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock.com

How is shiso best used? Fresh, in syrups or infusions, etc.

To be totally honest, it’s probably best in a cocktail if it’s muddled fresh, though we use it in a syrup here at Faith & Flower to keep up with the volume and to have a more consistent shiso flavor in each cocktail. Infusing it with spirits or using it in a tincture as an aroma or accent is pretty effective as well.

What spirits and mixers does it work best with?

We paired the shiso with a vegetal blanco tequila and cucumbers, in order to play on its grassy qualities. I’ve also seen it used as kind of a contrast in some cocktails, even just as a garnish for its aroma.

What are some tips for using it?

One of our biggest challenges with using shiso in the beginning was being able to keep the leaves green and keep them from wilting. It should last a few days to a week in the fridge if you just store it in a non-reactive container, but we like to store the leaves with a few sheets of paper towel between them in order to keep them fresh and dry.

Shiso Easy cocktail

Shiso Easy

Photo Courtesy of Kim Mahair

Shiso Easy

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz. Tapatio Blanco
  • 1/2 oz. Contratto Bianco
  • 3/4 oz. Shiso Syrup*
  • 3/4 oz. Lime Juice
  • 3 Cucumber Slices
  • Pinch Salt
  • 2 oz. Soda

Preparation: In a shaking tin, add the syrup, cucumbers, salt, and lime juice. Muddle, then add spirits and shake with one ice cube. Add soda to the tin and strain over fresh ice in a Collins glass. Garnish with a shiso leaf picked through a cucumber slice.

*Shiso Syrup

Weigh out 50g shies leaves and place in a blender with 250g water. Blend, and strain through a chinois. Add 250g white sugar and whisk until sugar has dissolved.