Bar Beat

Stirred and Shaken: Ninja Ramen's Oroku Sake

The Oroku Sake goes down easy at Ninja Ramen.
The Oroku Sake goes down easy at Ninja Ramen. Photo by Joy Zhang

It's a Tuesday night, and I've been trapped in a Radio Shack for an hour and a half, held hostage by the store's crappy Wi-Fi and its inability to transfer my old phone's data to my new phone within a timely fashion, say, before I die of starvation and dehydration at a Sprint counter, listening to the sales rep tell me about the troubles he'd been having with his pet cat, Tigga, before he got the poor animal neutered.

Spraying his furniture. Attacking his kid sister. These were the things I'd likely have done to the Sprint employee had I not bailed on Radio Shack and headed to Ninja Ramen instead. Dark and unassuming from its bar-front overlooking Washington, you'd never realize it's actually a great little spot that boasts an impressive array of Japanese whisky, a tonkotsu broth that gets 'er done,  and a cocktail list that's as absurd as it is tasty. Drinks are named in reference to pop culture ninjas, from Mortal Kombat to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Anime plays on the television. A John Candy-size teddy bear sits near the door for no apparent reason. Such lunacy is often the sign of genius, or at least a sick sense of humor, and that's exactly what I'm here for, to escape adulthood for one fleeting moment.

Enter the Oroku Sake, a cocktail named after Oroku "The Shredder" Sake Saki, the bad guy from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a guy who DGAF, a guy who dresses like he should be backup bassist for Gwar, a guy with a big bad posse who probably runs drugs and definitely crashes Vanilla Ice concerts and who makes a lot of mistakes, like, all the time.

Funny, then, that this drink is so elegant and  feminine. I sip mine, taking in the soft edges of Creme Yvette's violet flavor and the effervescent effectiveness of it all, a steady stream of punk rock blasting in the background. And as all punks past and present know, it's time to put down the drink when that one Social Distortion song comes on. I pull out my credit card, the one with the kitten on it, the one that prompted the employee at Radio Shack to tell me, "When I brought him home from the vet, Tigga was so sad, like, about losing his manhood or whatever."

The best part about this drink is the two large blackberries you can pop in your mouth at the end, enjoying all the booze that they've soaked up before you crush them into oblivion. Let me tell you, feminism has never tasted so good.

2 oz. Kissui Japanese Vodka

1/2 oz. Creme Yvette

1/2 oz. lemon juice

3 blackberries

sparkling sake

Muddle blackberries with lemon juice in a shaker tin. Add Creme Yvette and vodka and shake vigorously on ice. Double strain into a cocktail glass and top with sparkling sake. Garnish with a blackberry.

Update 2/9, 2:14 p.m.:  Ninja Ramen's  Christopher Huang tells the Press that the ramen broth isn't truly tonkotsu style, but an "Asahikawa-style shio broth, part seaweed & fish, part pork, salted by shio, or salt, as opposed to shoyu or miso." He also this bit of deep TMNT knowledge: "The shredder's name is Oroku Saki, which is a female name (saki means blossom, so I chose to use the floral creme Yvette). The creators of TMNT were white guys that didn't know that, so they accidentally gave him a girl's name. Huang named "the cocktail Oroku sake because it uses sake and I like puns."

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Gwendolyn Knapp is the food editor at the Houston Press. A sixth-generation Floridian, she is still torn as to whether she likes smoked fish dip or queso better.