Rice, Ice, Baby

Move Over, Margaritas, and Make Room for Sake—Yes, Frozen Sake

In Midtown, a surprising spot for an icy sake cocktail.

By Mai Pham April 28, 2016 Published in the May 2016 issue of Houstonia Magazine

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The most refreshing sake cocktail in town isn’t at Kuu or Uchi, Kata Robata or MF Sushi. Instead, you’ll find it at Bagby Park in Midtown, where new al fresco dining destination Rico’s Morning + Noon + Night pairs its signature hot dogs and hamburgers with frozen drinks made using the clean-tasting rice wine.

“Because we’re in a park, we are restricted,” explains Jason Gould, Rico’s chef and operating partner. “We can’t do liquor, so we can only have a beer-and-wine license. But we wanted to do something a little bit different, rather than just frozen mimosas.”

According to Gould, owner Rico Valencia discovered frozen sake-tinis on a trip to New York and realized that in Houston, they’d be a novel alternative to the margarita. “Frozen drinks are extremely popular, so doing frozen drinks in the park, when we’re getting into spring and summer and the weather’s great—we knew that something like this would be fantastic,” says Gould.

Currently, Rico’s offers two frozen sake-tini flavors, both made using a base of Gekkeikan junmai-shu, one of the most popular sakes in the world. The pineapple-coconut flavor, a play on the popular rum-based piña colada made with sake and ginger beer, is always available. This icy beverage, tropical-tasting and instantly refreshing, has a 15 percent alcohol content, but its sake component is so delicate, the taste of alcohol only reveals itself in the barest hint on the finish. The second flavor, which changes seasonally, is currently a delightful, mimosa-inspired orange-juice sake-tini. Summer will bring a fresh-berry concoction.

“People love them,” says Gould. “A lot of them are curious and don’t know what it is at first, so we give them a taste, and they usually end up buying because it’s such a great deal.” How great? A 16-ounce cup runs $8, and during happy hour—from 4 to 6 p.m. daily—that price gets slashed in half.

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