Re bartender Sam Cocks dials up the umami.
Sam Cocks is a bartender at Re in Sydney, and if you’ve been into the bar before and drunk those drinks, you know they’ve got a way with flavour.
That approach — wringing the most out of an ingredient for a delicious result — is one that Cocks has now applied to the mighty Paloma.
Below, lightly edited and condensed for clarity, Cocks talks about his inspiration for the drink, what shio koji is, and why he’s a big fan of using it in his drinks.
Sam Bygrave: How long have been at Re for, Sam?
Sam Cocks: I’ve been at Re since I moved over from Perth in March, so about seven, eight months now.
What is it you love about working at Re?
I think it’s the parameters for creativity. You work at most venues and the options are kind of endless for what you can use product-wise, where we kind of have a specific goal in mind and things we have to use. So I think that provides a challenge in itself, but I kind of prefer having those parameters. It makes it a little bit easier to come up with things rather than kind of being like, oh my God, there’s so many options, etc.
Yeah — having less options can lead to more creativity.
Yeah, exactly. I think that’s something that at the beginning, I was a little bit stumped with, but now that I’ve been there for a little bit of time, I’ve got used to it.
Tell us about your Patrón Perfectionist drink. You got through the top 10. What’s the name of the drink and what’s the big idea animating the whole thing?
The drink’s name is Myoho Asari. The serve itself was inspired by Sakai, which is a city in the south of Japan, located on Kyushu islands. I was inspired by that city and one of their culinary icons, Myoho Asari. She’s the current owner and leader of a store, which is a ninth generation store that specialises in koji-based products. She was actually the creator of shio koji in 2011. That was kind of the inspiration I took for my drink, not only in making the cordial, the base with shio koji, but then all of the ingredients as well, inspired by that city.
Can you explain for people who don’t know what Shio Koji is, what, why are you excited by these products?
Shio koji is great. It’s such a versatile thing. I think it kind of started off its life in food and drinks, mostly on the food side as mostly a marinade. Essentially it’s water, dried koji and salt, and you let it ferment for about a week and you can essentially use it to marinate or preserve — in my case used to preserve — but essentially, it really amplifies all of the flavours due to the enzymes and microbes within koji.
Is that what gives it like a umami boost or something or what’s going on?
It boosts glutamic acid and things like that, as well as obviously the shio side, whose direct translation is salt. So there’s a salty, savoury element to it.
Why is it you get up and do what you do? Like, why do you go to work doing what you do? What do you love about the job?
I think it’s just fascination, if anything, discovering something new, a new ingredient or possibly like a new technique, a different flavour or way to like preserve something or ferment something. To me, I find that really exciting. And then getting to like work in a venue that is kind of championing sustainability as well really adds an extra bonus to what I’m doing.
- 30ml Patrón Reposado
- 30ml Saiki cordial
- 90ml soda water
For Black (A.Luchuensis) Koji:
500 grams sushi rice
0.5 grams black aspergillus luchuensis spores
600ml filtered water
Soak rice in water overnight. Drain the water then rinse until the water becomes clear.
Steam for 20 minutes over simmering water.
Once cooled, inoculate with 0.25 grams of the koji spores.
Fold the rice through then repeat again with the remaining koji spores.
Cover with a clean, barely damp kitchen towel.
Keep in a temperature and humidity controlled environment at 30c and a humidity of 70 and 75%.
Keep at this temperature and humidity for 48 hours.
Once done, place koji in the fridge for 10 hours.
Break up koji and vacuum seal.
For Black Citric Shio Koji:
440 grams filtered water
400 grams black citric koji
70 grams salt
Blend all ingredients in the thermomix into a thick paste.
Keep in an airtight container at room temperature for 7 days, stirring daily.
After 7 days, refrigerate.
For Black Shio Koji Preserved Grapefruit Juice:
800 grams of ruby grapefruit, cubed with no pith or rind
500 grams black shio koji
2.5% pectinex to total weight of preserved grapefruit
Cover the grapefruit with shio koji and place a vacuum bag with water on top to weigh down the grapefruit.
Use an airtight container and place in the fridge for 2 weeks.
Scrape off shio koji and juice preserved grapefruit in a thermomix with pectinex. Speed 4, 7 minutes, 45c.
Strain over oil filter and grapefruit solids.
For Magnolia Kobus Sakurayu Ice:
200 grams of magnolia kobus petals
20 grams of umeboshi plum vinegar
25 grams of salt
475 grams of filtered water
25 grams of black citric koji in powder form
Combine all ingredients except magnolia and koji powder, stir to combine.
Remove the base of the magnolia and use just the petals of the flower.
Adjust the pH of the water/ vinegar/ salt solution to 4pH using the black citric koji powder.
Add water solution and magnolia petals into a vacuum bag, seal, and preserve for 3 weeks in the fridge.
Strain petals, keeping the preserving liquid.
Dehydrate petals at 40c for 4 hours.
100 grams preserved dehydrated magnolia kobus petals
600 grams of filtered water
Heat water until 95c then take off the heat and add preserved magnolia petals and step for 30 minutes.
Strain with an oil filter and place into the freezer in an airtight container until frozen solid.
For Kamairicha Koridashi:
500 grams of magnolia kobus sakurayu ice
25 grams of kamairicha tea
Add the kamairicha tea leaves to the bottom of a bowl, placing the magnolia ice over the top of it.
Leave at room temperature until all of the ice has melted, then strain using an oil filter
90ml soda water
400 ml shio koji cured grapefruit juice
200 ml kamairicha koridashi with magnolia ice
150 grams wasanbon sugar
Add all ingredients and stir until sugar is dissolved.
Garnish with Dehydrated Black Shio Koji:
After the preservation of grapefruit in the black shio koji, remove the grapefruit and dehydrate the shio koji at 60c for 12 hours or until completely dry.
Once dehydrated grind down into a fine powder using a traditional suribachi.