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Monday, July 6, 2015

Alcohol Recipe: Cherry Blossom Viewing Special

"What we've got here... is a failure to communicate."

I have always loved that line by Strother Martin from the 1967 movie Cool Hand Luke.

Now... rather than whiff on about Japan and English, blah-blah-blah, I thought I'd present to you a little something from an American bar in Japan - circa 1958 - called Higgins Hangover Haven.

I have always called booze 'conversation lubrication', meaning it helps loosen the lips of those imbibing the alcohol.

I don't know much about the place - I don't even know where it was located - I suspect Tokyo someplace... but catering to both western and Japanese tastes, Higgins Hangover Haven used to have some killer cocktails.

Higgins Hangover Haven may have had other specialties, but one I know they had was the Cherry Blossom Viewing Special.

Hanami is the Japanese term that refers to that spring time Japanese tradition of viewing cherry blossoms as they flower on the multitude of cherry trees.

Around since the Nara Period (710–794AD) when it was ume (plum) blossoms that people admired, it was changed to sakura (cherry) blossom viewing in the Heian Period (794–1185AD).

In fact, in Japanese poetry, both the waka and haiku versions, sakura has come to mean cherry blossoms.. not just cherry trees or the fruit.

Since that Heian-jidai (Heian era), when the Emeperor Saga used to hold parties under the trees with sake drinking, the people began to believe that there were kami (spirits) residing in the sakura trees, and the sake was meant to be given and drunk as an offering to them.

Spirits... that explains a lot.

Nowadays, I wonder how much toasting is given to the kami, rather than just to the imbibers who sit under the canopy of flowers and drink themselves into oblivion? That's not a complaint on my part, by the way... I admire the fact that the Japanese will use any occasion to have a drink and let down their hair - important considering they often work themselves far too hard for my liking.

I, myself, as regular readers will know, could out drink a swathe of sailors in town on leave... and despite puking my guts out three times in three years, and not quite making it home in time to use the toilet facilities (those dress pants were never going to see a dry-cleaner, and so were tossed out) - I have never suffered a hangover. Never. Certainly not for lack of trying.

I've been so polluted, that I have gone to the gym the next day and sweated out rum and coke. I'm not proud of that, though it does make an interesting story. I don't drink nowadays out of choice, but will if I go out with the boys once a year, or unless someone gives me a bottle of the good stuff (thanks, Rob).

Hanami and the getting hammered drunk evening is a great way for conversation amongst employees and bosses to occur, with whatever negative crap occurring remaining with the kami spirits the next day.

Basically, whatever happens in hanami stay in hanami.

I recall at one hanami party I encountered with my Ohtawara Board of Education, that my very drunk boss Hanazaki-san promised me they would get me a real bed to help my ailing back... and true to his drunken word, they did.

Hanami is often the place where many a business deal gets hammered out, so it's not all fun and games.

Anyhow, according to the coupon taken from a souvenir scrap album given to me by my buddy Vince, Higgins Hangover Haven real specialty is making and breaking hangovers.

I am unsure HOW they broke a hangover - except via the hair of the dog, a term meant to infer drinking of more alcohol to lessen the effects of a hangover... all very good when one is slinging alcohol to the ignorant masses. Been there, drunk that.

The bar offers its inexpensive guaranteed hangover via its Cherry Blossom Viewing Special, which consists of:

  • Five parts Japanese sake;
  • Five equal parts lemon, lime, gin, rum and vodka.
They claim, good-naturedly that it is also good for snake bites and amnesia... but if you drank it, I don't think you'd remember that.

Ya gotta love truth in advertising 1950s style.

If anyone in Japan has any knowledge of the bar Higgins Hangover Haven - I doubt it still exists, since no mention of it is on-line - please share with us here.

Andrew "the trees are swaying so fast the flowers are blurry" Joseph

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