History of the Japanese Slipper

The Japanese Slipper, one of the most elegant cocktail drinks ever created, doesn’t really have much to do with Japan or slippers. A subtle blend of Midori melon liqueur with Cointreau and lemon juice, the Slipper mixes sweet and tart flavors for a perfect before-dinner drink.

Why is it called the Japanese Slipper? Possibly because Midori is the Japanese word for green. It could also represent the simple elegance of the way it’s served. There’s something Zen-like about that single maraschino cherry floating at the bottom of cloudy soft spring-green liquor. It looks like an abstract painting of spring. A orange or lemon wedge sometimes replaces the cherry, suggesting a fan.

This lovely little cocktail came into being in 1984 at the famous Mietta’s Restaurant in Melbourne, Australia, created by drink-mixing genius Jean-Paul Bourguignon. Today it’s considered an International Bartenders Association classic. Midori had only existed for about six years at the time. The splashy Suntory liqueur was welcomed into bars and lounges worldwide after an enthusiastic debut at the exclusive Studio 54 club during the height of the “Saturday Night Fever” disco craze.

The traditional recipe calls for an ounce of Midori, an ounce of Cointreau, and a half ounce of fresh squeezed lemon juice. The cherry goes into the martini glass first, while the Midori and Cointreau are poured into the mixer cup followed by the lemon juice and six cubes of crushed ice. Shaken or stirred? Nobody remembers what Bourguignon did. Shaking will make the drink colder, but dilute it slightly. Stirring with a bar spoon gently blends the ingredients. Strain into glass and enjoy. It’s a strange and wonderful combination, defying any description or comparison.

There are several variations to the Japanese Slipper. Some bartenders use a full ounce of fruit juice instead of a half. Instead of a martini glass, use a small wine glass. You can substitute lime juice for lemon, and any triple sec can go in place of the Cointreau. Russo Mandarino might also work. Try putting in vodka instead of Cointreau for a heavier effect. For parties, put in a straw or add a Japanese paper umbrella or a chrysanthemum garnish.

The fresh-tasting Japanese Slipper is a great aperitif, especially appropriate for an Asian dinner. It can also be a dessert drink due to its sweetness. If you like Japanese Slippers, you might also like an Alligator or Midori Sunrise.

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