There are, however, few things less intriguing than a drink made with a spoonful of squid ink. But that's what we've come to expect at Kuro, the new-style Japanese restaurant inside the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, where bar manager Jared Boller has assembled a sizable cocktail menu featuring some of the area's most creative — and, yes, adventurous — mixology programs.
While the Kuro kitchen is busy delivering executive chef Alex Becker's unique, multi-course kaiseki-style dining experience, Boller matches him stride for stride behind the bar, mixing up some equally tasty drinks for the Kuro lounge, each inspired creations that showcase hand-crafted components, from fruit juices to bitters, and specialty-sourced liquors.
"It's all about creating an experience and making a memory," says Boller, who has styled each drink according to the five taste profiles umami, bitter, sweet, sour, and spicy. "We want people to leave here and talk about what they had, and why they liked it."
To keep things simple, Boller has named every cocktail by the order in which they were created, numbered in Japanese, of course. There's the Hachi — or number eight — the bar's most popular drink, an umami concoction that combines mushroom bourbon, black pepper syrup, and lemon juice. Equally alluring, the Roku — number six — is filed under the menu's salty libations, a mix of Japanese shochu, prosecco, soy sauce, coriander, honey, lemon, pomegranate, and molasses.
Now, with six months under its belt, Kuro has unveiled several new cocktails to reflect the menu's most requested taste profiles: sweet, sour, umami, and bitter. Staying true to the bar's original concept, drinks 9, 10, 11, and 12 feature distinctly unique ingredients and Boller's penchant for surprising us with unexpected flavor pairings.
You'll find a lemongrass-infused yellow chartreuse to be the main ingredient in the Kyu (No. 9), an herbaceous liqueur Boller has paired with rum, pineapple and lime juices, as well as Falernum, a sweet syrup used in many tropical drinks made with almond, ginger, cloves, vanilla, and allspice.
For a new twist on an old classic, Boller created the Jyu (No. 10), his play on a pisco sour, this one made with a Peruvian pisco, creme de violette, lemon juice, and spiked with togarashi, a Japanese spice mix from the Kuro kitchen containing ground red chili pepper, orange peel, sesame, ginger, and nori.
But it's the restaurant's namesake cocktail, the Kuro, that is most alluring.
"When we first named Kuro, I knew immediately that I wanted to create a black drink, but how do you do that naturally," said Boller. "So I paired squid ink with a dark molasses rum. The squid ink adds a subtle hint of brine, but overall it's there for the aesthetic appeal: a sleek, sexy drink that matches exactly what Kuro is all about."
Designed to be just a touch sweet, yet filed under the umami section, Boller has created a refreshing tiki-style libation with fresh lime and pineapple juices, a blend of rich Cruzan black strap molasses rum, Smith & Cross Jamaican rum, toasty black sesame seeds, and — of course — a scoop of squid ink. The cocktail is garnished with edible flowers and served over crushed ice.
One sip, and you'll never believe — or care, really — that part of what you're drinking is essentially cephalopod mucus. Feeling inspired? Make one at home using Boller's recipe, and surprise your friends and family with the mystery ingredient. After they take their first sip, of course.
- .75 ounce fresh lime juice
- 1 bar spoon of squid ink
- .75 ounce simple syrup
- .5 ounce pineapple juice
- 1 ounce each, (2) types of Caribbean rum
- Muddle 1 teaspoon of sesame seeds.
- Build the drink: Using a jigger, pour the ingredients in their proper amounts into a cocktail shaker in the following order: squid ink, lime juice, simple syrup, pineapple juice and the two types of rum
- Add four ice cubes and shake for 10 seconds.
- With your Hawthorne strainer, strain over pebbled ice into a double rocks glass.
- Garnish with edible flowers, mint sprig, lime wheel, and black sesame seeds.