How to Use Midori, the Japanese Melon Liqueur
There's no missing that bright green bottle.
It’s no surprise that just after its US launch in 1978, Midori quickly became all the rage in cocktail bars and clubs around the country. The Japanese melon liqueur had all the 1980s trends going for it: a memorable name, sweet and sour flavor, international cache, and of course, its bright green color. The 80s truly was the ideal decade to embrace such a flamboyant liqueur. Plus, launching Midori at celebrity-favorite Studio 54 during a Saturday Night Fever cast party only added to its appeal.
Over time, though, sales of Midori went the way of big shoulder pads, disco, and sweet and sour mix as the late 2000s ushered in a more austere cocktail culture — think Gin and Tonics, Old Fashioneds, and the Negronis made by bearded and bunned bartenders in heavy leather aprons. Nowadays, bars and restaurants are looking back fondly at the drinks trends of the past. “The 80s and 90s are back in full swing, bringing with them an array of nostalgia, from Austin Powers to neon-colored cocktail mixers,” says Colin Neil Stevens, who is the Beverage Director at Fungi Hospitality group’s New York-based restaurants and bars. “Midori is no exception, having made a comeback in the modern bar scene due to its quality product.”
What is Midori?
Made by Suntory, Japan’s best-known spirits liquor group, Midori is a slightly sweet melon liqueur that is primarily flavored with Japanese muskmelons. It has a sweet, earthy melon flavor without being overly cloying. At just 21% alcohol by volume, Midori is delicious on its own as a shooter or served over ice, but it also plays well with a variety of spirits and liqueurs in cocktails.
How is Midori made?
Midori is all about melon. The drink starts with the juice of yubari muskmelons, a rare Japanese melon that grows exclusively in Yubari, Hokkaido, and can be sold from upwards of $40 to even $20,000 per melon, and are known for their uniquely sweet flavor. The yubari juice gets blended with juice from a few other types of muskmelon for added depth. The juices are infused into a neutral spirit, then mixed with brandy and fortified. The result is a sweet liqueur with a luscious mouthfeel and pure melon flavor.
How to drink Midori
The best bottles on your bar cart are the most versatile, and Midori certainly fits the build. The melon liqueur can be enjoyed on its own, but it’s best known for its role in cocktails. “[Midori] pairs wonderfully with fresh ingredients like mint, basil, apple, and melon, which can help to enhance the melon flavor while tempering its slightly bitter notes,” says Stevens. He enjoys blending Midori with rye, sweet vermouth, brandy, and bitters for a melon-scented play on a Vieux Carre — he calls it the Midori Melon Carre.
Best Midori cocktails
While Midori plays well with dark spirits like rye whiskey, it’s also great with gin, vodka, tequila, and even rum. It’s best known for its starring role in a Midori sour, where it's mixed with vodka, lemon juice, lime juice, and plenty of club soda. Subbing out vodka for shochu, a Japanese spirit made with rice and other grains, yields a softer expression of the cocktail. The Midori Shochu Sour cocktail blends the melon liqueur with herbaceous green tea and smooth shochu, and was developed by Julia Momose, owner of Chicago’s Kumiko,, as well as the author of The Way of the Cocktail: Japanese Traditions, Techniques & Recipes.
While Japanese-inspired cocktails have been trending in American bars and restaurants, ingredients and flavor profiles from Japan have been popular in Peru for quite some time. Known as Nikkei cuisine, Peru is home to a fusion of Japanese and Peruvian cooking that was influenced by an influx of immigration. Inspired by Nikkei flavors, the Nipo-Peruana blends Pisco with Midori, citrus, and nutty orgeat (the almond-based cocktail sweetener you should have on your bar cart).
If you’re looking for a fun, versatile liqueur to add to your bartending arsenal Midori is the bottle for you. Whether you’re enjoying it in a play on a Midori Sour, or a more complicated, globe-trotting cocktail, or even simply with some club soda in a simple highball, one bottle of Midori can take you in limitless directions. Get mixing!
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