What is Yuzu? A Yuzu Cocktail Recipe

by on October 29, 2009

yuzu cocktail recipe

“What is yuzu?” Don’t feel bad if you have never heard of this beautiful little citrus, since outside of a few Asian cuisines and particularly in Japanese cultural circles it is seldom grown or used, however we are hear to tell you that yuzu is pure culinary gold.

Yuzu is a sour, tart and very fragrant citrus, slightly smaller than a billiard ball. Yuzu is a citrus that isn’t eaten straight, but is used as a souring ingredient through the use of it’s juice and zest.  The flavor is reminicent somewhere between a classic Eureka lemon and an oro blanco grapefruit, but still has its own unique fragrance and flavor.  It is a bit more floral and sour and utterly wonderful.  It smells so good the Japanese will use yuzu for perfumes and will ritualistically bath in yuzu during Toji (winter solstice).

yuzu japanese citron lemon


There isn’t a lot of juice in each little ball of fruit, maybe a teaspoon per yuzu due to much of its mass being occupied by ginormous seeds and a thicker rind. However the juice is one of the very few citrus that can hold up fairly well to cooking without diminishing the flavor.  The zest is packed with delicious oils that allow you to use nearly every part of the yuzu in the kitchen. Yuzu is a integral part to Japanese Ponzu sauce as well as yuzu-kosho, a spicy chili-salt laden with yuzu zest.

The intensity of the aroma is incredible.  When I was making cocktails using only one yuzu, the scent hit Diane from 20 feet away.

For the home gardener, yuzu is one of the most zone diverse citrus, being cold hardy down to 5-10º F. It is a bit stubborn to get to flower and has a few nasty thorns, but it is well worth the time & care to get these beautiful trees to fruit. They are still a bit hard to track down in the United States, but if you have a great nursery nearby, maybe they’ll be able to special order you one.

The fruit is ready earlier than most citrus, usually September or October, giving citrus heavy areas like southern California and Florida extra incentive to add a yuzu to their collections. One of the things we love most about our garden is that there is almost always something fruiting all year.  Every season and month has something new to look forward to and it helps ease the grief of another favorite ending for the year.

Diane had requested yuzu recipe ideas from readers and there were several fantastic ideas, however I already knew how I wanted to use our first born yuzu. A cocktail, of course. We kept the ingredients simple so the yuzu could be highlighted and not overwhelmed by the alcohol and since there isn’t much juice per yuzu, but the rind is so aromatic, we muddled a whole yuzu in order to get the most out of it.

The result: pure deliciousness.  There will be upcoming recipes featuring the yuzu, but for now we raise our glasses and toast to one of our favorite lumpy garden orbs: Yuzu!

More posts about Japanese Lemons: Yuzu & Kabosu:

What is Yuzu? Why is Yuzu so prized?
What is Kabosu? differences between Kabosu and Yuzu
More Cocktail Recipes

yuzu cocktail recipe

Yuzu Cocktail Recipe

Yield: 1 Cocktail

Total Time: 5 Minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz light Rum
  • 3/4 oz Vanilla Vodka
  • 3/4 oz Triple Sec
  • 1 oz Simple Syrup
  • 1 whole Yuzu (or @ 1 1/2 t yuzu juice)
  • club soda

Directions:

  1. Slice yuzu in half and muddle all ingredients except for club soda in a cocktail shaker. Add ice & shake for 15-20 seconds.
  2. Strain into an old-fashion glass, add a few cubes of ice, top with club soda, gently stir & garnish.
Recipe Source: WhiteOnRiceCouple.com.

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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Murasaki Shikibu October 30, 2009 at 2:02 am

Funny…I just suggested someone living in Japan use Yuzu to make their salad dressing this morning. Lemons are almost all imported there except for the hard green ones you can find sometimes, so I always did prefer to use Yuzu, Sudachi, Kabosu, etc. :)

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2 White on Rice Couple October 31, 2009 at 10:47 am

You guided them well! When we were just in Japan we tried the sudachi & kobosu for the first time and they were wonderful, too. We haven’t even seen them here in the US. Japan may not get great lemons, but their own citrus are fantastic!

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3 RachelB November 20, 2009 at 9:47 pm

Hamada Farms, a vendor at one of the San Francisco farmers’ markets, has been bringing Sudachi lemons to market for a couple of weeks now if you’re looking for a source in the states.

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4 Tokyo Terrace October 30, 2009 at 4:38 am

I love this! I made a cocktail with Calamansi and posted it today- AND tomorrow I have a yuzu cocktail post coming up for Cocktail Friday! The flavor of each of these citrus fruits is just too perfect in a cocktail. Beautiful photos as always! –Rachael

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5 White on Rice Couple October 31, 2009 at 10:48 am

We checked out your cocktails. They look fantastic. Another drink for us!

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6 Julia October 30, 2009 at 5:26 am

The best I can find in Boston is bottled yuzu juice. I usually just make a blend of lemon and lime as a substitute. I continue to be jealous of your garden and that cocktail looks exceedingly refreshing!

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7 Nicole Spasiano October 30, 2009 at 7:18 am

I love ponzu! I had no idea what was in there but I often get some sticky rice and pour ponzu over it instead of soy sauce. I love that flavor.

I’ll have to see if I can get a plant in the northeast!

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8 Christie @ Fig&Cherry October 30, 2009 at 7:42 am

That’s why I love flying Japan Airlines – for Yuzu juice! :)

The leaves look like kaffir lime leaves (my fav!) – do they have a beautiful taste as well?

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9 White on Rice Couple October 31, 2009 at 10:49 am

The leaves have some fragrance, but nothing like the kaffir. We haven’t tried using the leaves yet in the kitchen, but if anyone has and liked what came of it, we’d love to hear about it.

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10 Eric Gower October 30, 2009 at 5:11 pm

Imagine my delight when the mailman delivered a box of FRESH YUZU today!! Unbelievable act of generosity from Diane and Todd — domo arigatou gozaimasu!! Will report back all experiment results. Thank you thank you thank you!

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11 3hungrytummies October 31, 2009 at 8:47 pm

unfortunately we are not able to get fresh yuzu in melbourne :(

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12 SippitySup November 1, 2009 at 6:15 pm

Wow, I picked this post randomly, because I am in a bit of a haze that you left a comment on my blog… I (of course) have loved you guys for years. When I heard you on Good Food I started a (successful) campaign to get myself on that show. Who knew Evan would talk to bloggers!

I read and stalk here (and rarely comment) but your blog inspired me to start my own. I have a background in professional photography, but I have set limitations on my blog photos. These include ONLY using a 100 dollar point and shoot, never using additional lighting (only window light for me). I (try to) avoid a tripod, and I eat the food within seconds of shooting, so there are no re-shoots… It gets me punished by the TasteGawkers and the FoodBullies, but photos should tell a story. As yours do!

Oh yeah… I like light that has color. No white balance for me!

Anyway, my point is. It’s an honor to be nominated alongside you and (I swear) I voted for you for best photo. I don’t need to win! But I can’t promise how my hunky BF voted, nor my “legions” of fans. GREG

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13 Lori Lynn November 4, 2009 at 3:47 pm

I am definitely making this cocktail. My yuzu tree is a year old, planted last October, the fruits are still small and green, maybe a few more months to go! YAY!
LL

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14 Britton November 10, 2009 at 7:34 pm

In the United States, one nursery that sells yuzu trees is
http://www.fourwindsgrowers.com/variety_list.html#exotic

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15 Britton November 19, 2009 at 7:32 pm

In the Pacific Northwest, One Green World (onegreenworld.com) also carries Yuzu trees for only $24.95/tree. The variety is Ichandrin. Best of all, they are advertised as hardy in the Pacific Northwest–all the way to zone 7.

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16 White on Rice Couple November 23, 2009 at 12:56 pm

Britton- thank you for the great info! One Green World and four wind growers sound like amazing nurseries.

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17 CitrusinSC December 21, 2009 at 7:19 am

I live in Orangeburg SC (named for the Duke of Orange, not the fruit) which is upper zone 8. I have two own-root Yuzu’s and one young, grafted onto trifoliate orange. I had more Yuzu’s this year than I knew what to do with. We make Yuzu cake, use the Yuzu’s in a vinaigrette, and I tried to make scallops in Yuzu, (Hotate Yuzu Kama-yaki) I had to follow lots of advice on how to make substitutes for mirin, but I found a Korean market in Columbia, SC that had white miso. My problem is the mixture was way too salty. The saltiness way overpowered the scallops. The fundamental problem was the miso, even diluted with mirin and sake. Any suggestions as to what’s the deal here?

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18 White on Rice Couple December 21, 2009 at 10:55 am

CitrusinSC-
That’s awesome you’ve got the yuzu overflowing! We’ve never had Hotate Yuzu Kama-yaki before so aren’t really sure what the taste is supposed to be or how salty a well prepared dish is. One thing about miso is that is does vary quite a bit between makers. We checked out the recipe at Bento.com and they are using red miso which is usually even a bit saltier than white, so it may just be a saltier dish. A couple people who are way more knowledgeable than us about Japanese cuisine would be Harris at Japanese Food Report and Eric at The Breakaway Cook.
Last night I was already craving some good Japanese cooking (spent the wee hours soaking in Japanese cookbooks) and now I am feeling like an addict going through withdrawals. Good luck on the scallops. If we discover any answers, we’ll make sure to pass them on.

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19 CitrusinSC December 21, 2009 at 11:49 am

I have some pictures of the Yuzu with fruit from a month or so ago, if you are interested.

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20 Steve Carlson March 22, 2010 at 10:22 pm

Any tricks for getting a yuzu tree to flower? I’m in the SF bay area, and bought a yuzu tree last year. The fruit that was already on it ripened beautifully. But the tree has been very quiet since, with no budding activity. Should it have already flowered this year? Anything I can do to make it wake up? I’d love some more of those yuzu.

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21 Steve Carlson June 5, 2010 at 9:53 pm

My yuzu tree is now full of tiny yuzu babies, and shooting up another 12″ of growth. Could be a great year for yuzu. I love my yuzu tree. Thanks for the inspiration.

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22 White on Rice Couple November 15, 2010 at 2:24 pm

We’ve had the same sort of problem. Lost of fruit one year, none the next. Going into our third year we are doubling up on a trick which a Japanese gardener taught us, to tightly tie some string around the branches to “choke” them a bit. It will cause a bit of stress on the plant and they will sometimes flower to put out some next of kin.
That plus we are fertilizing more this year, being that citrus in general really like being fed a lot.
Good luck.

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23 Diana July 30, 2010 at 12:11 pm

Hello! I really like your yuzu picture (the second one shown in your blog) and would like to use it in a short Japanese food brochure for a fair. Would it be possible to use it?

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24 Annapet November 15, 2010 at 12:08 pm

Hello, again! I am researching yuzu for the garden, and my search led me back to your site. Replies to comments are also useful. Thanks!

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25 Huckleberry December 10, 2010 at 6:40 am

My favorite use of yuzu is with alcohol. The next would be as a salad dressing ingredient. However, one of the best uses not discussed on this page is in the bath. Sometimes Japanese onsen (hot spring resort type establishments) have special yuzu bath days. Also, yuzu ripen during cold season, and chucking some yuzu juice into a hot drink is often nice.

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