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February 16, 2024updated Feb 19, 2024

Paris Bar Danico Launches Japan Themed Cocktail Menu

Cocktail of the Week: A negroni with a touch of Japan.

By Toby Louch

If you’re in search of cocktails that conjure the mystical essence of Japan, you may think you should make a beeline straight to Tokyo’s raucous Roppongi district, the vibrant downtown area that hums to the beat of the city’s 24-hour drum. However, the maestros at Paris bar Danico have another suggestion that may just be a little closer to home.

In January 2023, Danico — one of the best bars in the City of Lights — began its ‘Xplorer’ cocktail series. Every six months, an entirely new menu is released based on the travels of acclaimed bartender and Danico owner Nico de Soto. The ‘Xplorer’ journey began with Indonesia, inspired by a trip de Soto took in 2008. This was followed up six months later with a fresh ‘Xplorer’ menu that paid homage to Mexico.

Edmond Honda cocktail from Danico / ©Danico

Now it’s Japan’s turn. An entirely new menu has been formulated that features 12 innovative and entirely original cocktails that dive deep into the annals of Japanese society. From the iconic samurai movies of Akira Kurosawa to the calming and quintessential cherry blossom, the high-speed bullet train and even video game sumo wrestler Edmond Honda, all bases have been covered.

It was a chance meeting in 2010 between De Soto and restauranter Julien Ross, that would begin Danico’s journey. In 2016, Julien Ross set up the modern-day trattoria, Daroco, in the heart of Paris on rue Vivienne, in what was once a Jean-Paul Gaultier store. In partnership, De Soto would open Danico, a separate speakeasy-style cocktail bar accessible in the evening through the restaurant.

[See also: The Golden Martini by Seventy One Gin]

The Beni Imo coakctial from Danico / ©Danico

Danico would quickly earn its reputation, making a name for itself not only among the established Parisian bar scene, but globally. It currently ranks as one of the best bars in the world.

While the setting and atmosphere are important, it’s the drinks themselves, that shine with De Soto’s influence and continue keeping people talking.

De Soto has honed a contemporary style where innovative flavors, combinations and techniques blend, creating something unique. Expect unusual ingredients, modern methods like sous-vide (it’s not just for steak), centrifuges to clarify juices, and rotovap (imagine something you would see in a chemistry lab) to make his own distillates.

 [See also: Tequila Don Julio Launches Alma Miel]

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The menu

Capsule Hotel from Danico / ©Danico

True to form, the new ‘Xplorer’ menu is incredibly creative, containing ingredients that aren’t exactly easily accessible from your local grocery store. If a trip to Japan is not on the horizon, this new menu at Danico could be the next best thing.

The menu — intriguing in its own right —was led by artistic director Agathe de Roquefeuil. Each cocktail is given a full page with a unique custom-made illustration by Tristan Barbier, the story of the drink, an ingredient list, in addition to the method and taste. When it comes to method and taste things are kept intentionally vague. You understand the gist of what you will be presented with but there will certainly be some surprises.

The cocktail Capsule Hotel takes its cues from the unique accommodation style created in Japan, where guests book small bed-sized rooms, stereotypically championed by backpackers and drunk businessmen struggling to make it home. Comprised of Wakoucha tea infused Citadelle gin, toasted sushi rice syrup, clarified lemon and tonic, this cocktail is carbonated, served in a highball with a fizzy and sour taste.

Oku-No-In is one of the most sacred sites in Japan and is the location of the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism. It is believed that instead of having died, Kobo Daishi rests in eternal meditation. Having visited, De Soto described it as one of the most mystical places he’s been to in Japan.

Served in a martini glass and comprised of Grey Goose Vodka, Aojiru distillate,  lacto fermented peach, verjus, whey syrup,  yuzu vinegar, champagne and Hakuto jelly, this cocktail is shaken and presents a sweet and sour taste.

[See also: Perrier-Jouët Reveals $100,000 Edition of its 2008 Vintage]


The Sakura cocktail from Danico / ©Danico

While all the cocktails at Danico feature intriguing, unusual ingredients and complex techniques there is one in particular that’s certainly achievable at home.

Sakura, aptly named after Japan’s famous cherry blossom — which sees nationwide celebrations during blooming season —is essentially a negroni with a Japanese twist. Featuring Hendrick’s gin, Martini Rubino vermouth and Campari, this recipe also adds umeshu, a Japanese plum liqueur, and of course a cherry blossom, if you can get your hands on one.


— Hendrick’s gin
— Martini Rubino vermouth
— Campari
— Umeshu
— Sakura (Cherry blossom)


Add equal parts gin, vermouth and Campari, with a touch of umeshu. Stir together over ice to chill and strain into a glass of your choosing. Top with a Sakura and enjoy.

[See also: The Best Champagne Brands to Try This Year]

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