Although often dismissed by cocktail drinkers, Midori, the Japanese melon liqueur, cast a lasting spell on Kate Richards early in her drinking career. She argues that the neon green elixir deserves a resurgence as a backbar staple – and some Adelaide bartenders agree.
Like many people who grew up in the age of big belts on the Supre mini dresses, Maybelline Dream Matte Mousse and Snake III have fond memories of Midori.
On Wednesday nights, I would tear up the dance floor at my local hometown club, Danger Danger, powered singularly by Midori Splices.
My group of friends were recognized as certified freaks by our classmates – until we slapped pre-made photos of Midori and Baileys Quick Fuck past security pat-downs at our school dance. We got so drunk that someone threw up on the floor.
Like a fiend, I adopted Midori as a nursing kitten, sculling from the melon-skinned bottle in the lounges of many pre-aperitif gatherings.
Unlike most of my Midori companions of old, I haven’t stopped liking it.
A recent survey of Adelaide’s bar scene confirmed what I already suspected: in some elite circles, Midori has gone from being a first-puncher to a notorious not-cool.
A Solomon Street insider told me she harassed the owners of 1000 Island for Midori on their site. The answer: “Absolutely not”. A sometimes Udaberri employee responded to my inquiry as to whether they stock it with dry amusement: “Definitely no Midori ahaha”.
Smokelovers’ Hamish Tregeagle, despite being a Midori fan himself, shares the same bafflement at my enthusiasm for the good green drink: “We’ve been open since December 23, so about a month now, and until present, only one person has asked about it… and that’s you,” he said.
We all want to forget the acne and braces of yesteryear, but why did we turn our backs on Midori?
When they don’t know much about something, they tend to hate it. When you look at someone who hates something very passionately, they probably don’t know it.
Midori is an artificially colored melon liqueur, or melon wine, made from a blend of Japanese Yubari and Musk melons, sourced from Yubari and Shizuoka respectively. It’s royalty among its imitators, containing only premium melon juice – harvested in June/July then frozen like peas until the Suntory production line is in session – neutral alcohol, water, cognac and sugar .
There are other melon liqueurs out there, but none capture the essence of pure pleasure quite like Midori: an 80s spandex green, incredibly sweet melon nectar, all wrapped up in a silly, curvy bottle. No one is sad when they drink Midori.
Vini Wang of Bar Peripheral agrees. “People don’t understand Midori, so they say they hate it,” he says. “But there’s no way to hate something you don’t understand.”
He’s been stocking Midori reasonably since day one in his Pulteney Street bar, despite only consuming around six bottles in two years.
“You know how people are,” he continues. “When they don’t know much about something, they tend to hate it. When you look at someone who hates something very passionately, they probably don’t know it.
To know Midori is to know unbridled joy – to be Homer Simpson feverishly guarding his pile of stolen sugar, or Grandpa Joe at Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. It’s a meaty late-summer treat, unconcerned with mainstream popularity and ripe for association with any number of eligible singles.
The taste is as complex to apprehend as that of a fine Chablis, or a wrinkled truffle, explains Vini.
“People taste Midori and think it’s a melon that almost looks like candy…but that’s from a Western perspective,” he says. “From the perspective of oriental flavors, Midori is the natural taste of melon. Muskmelon in Japan and the melons that grow here are very different.
It confirms what I’ve known for a long time: to balk at Midori’s deliciously sickening mouth is to have an unworthy palate.
But just as you can’t serve brisket like you would a filet mignon, Midori doesn’t belong in every cocktail. Beneath its diaphanous robe, this viscous melon syrup confirms that balance is the hallmark of any good cocktail. You wouldn’t shake sugar cubes with maple syrup and call it a drink, but many of us pour Midori into pineapple juice to end up with 500 more calories and only a fraction also satisfied.
“I think it’s only right for people to be at least neutral towards Midori, so they can start approaching her like they would any other spirit,” Vini says.
Hamish agrees. “I think it’s known as a sweet drink that’s traditionally mixed with lemonade or pineapple juice. The classic introduction to alcohol,” he says. “Corn [Suntory] don’t really use it, because it’s the recipe on the back of the bottle… Moreover, the color is abnormally green, which makes it even more mysterious.
But there is a silver lining for the drink everyone loves to hate. Just as Ugg boots have found their way into fashion, some of Adelaide’s top bars are bringing back Midori – the Japanese slipper was an Australian invention after all.
Just this week, I sipped a nice green drink and watched the Rundle Street scum from the pretty balcony of Two Pot Screamer. Africola has Midori plastered all over her Instagram. And, of course, Vini Wang continues to precisely mix Midori with other delicious things at his moody downtown bar.
I don’t know about you, but if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me.
Three way Midori
Vini Wang, Peripheral Bar
Fun, fresh, light and balanced, this drink is for true Midori lovers.
—25ml fresh lime
—30 ml of Joseph Carton mango liqueur
—25ml Saint James Agricultural White Rum
—Radish essence spritz
1. Pour the first four ingredients into a BOston agitator.
2. Stir and taste to balance.
3. Fill the shaker with ice and shake vigorously to aerate and blend your drink.
4. Spray your glass with essence of radish (omit this step if you must).
5. Strain the drink into a glass.
Vini Wang, Peripheral Bar
A surprisingly complex and alcoholic drink, both grassy and intellectual.
—30ml No. 3 London Dry Gin (fully flavored gin; it’s very mixable, not too greasy)
—15ml of Green Chartreuse
—10 ml of Suze
—Dash Regan Orange Bitters
—Lemon zest garnish
1. Pour all ingredients into a shaker glass.
2. Add a very large ice cube (or a handful of regular ice cream if that’s all you have).
3. Slowly stir in the glass to dilute and mix the drink.
4. Strain into a rocks glass over a very tall ice Cube.
Wendy’s Lemon Melon
Hamish Tregeagle, smoke lovers
Inspired by a favorite Wendy’s sorbet from his youth, Hamish’s lemon melon drink is a sweet and sour, sorbet good time.
—30ml of Lillet Blanc
—20ml Tanqueray 10 gin
—15ml lemon juice
—15ml simple syrup
—4 drops of Wonderfoam (a vegan foamer, like any good sorbet should be)
1. Add all your ingredients to a Boston shaker.
2. Fill with ice.
3. Shake vigorously to froth and blend your cocktail.
4. Double strain into a rocks glass over ice.