At the Sansaro restaurant, the crowning highlight at the end of the drinks menu since 2019 is a special rarity: yuzu spirit.
Yuzu? What is yuzu? The fruit is hardly known in Germany, and the drink made from it is almost unique in the world.
This is typical for our Restaurant Sansaro in Munich: We do not offer the usual spirits based on berries or fruit, but rely on a special Japanese fruit.
How did the yuzu spirit come about? This is also typical for the Sansaro in Munich: There is, of course, an interesting story behind it.
Old friends - the core of every good story
The idea for a yuzu spirit was born many years ago between two old friends: Alexander Reinelt, former Japanology student, founder and managing director of SUSHIYA GmbH, visited his old school friend Sebastian Rauscher in his former studio on the former Optimol premises.
Sebastian, a passionate artist, trained carpenter and studied architect, told him about his plan to open a distillery.
Sebastian dedicated himself to this project with his characteristic intensity, depth and enthusiasm. He had just bought his first still and drawn the logo for his company.
The thought: If you can make a good domestic spirit from domestic fruit - can you also make a special spirit from a special fruit from Japan? Is it possible to capture the special flavor of Japan in a spirit or brandy?
At the same time, friends of Alexander were in Japan at the time, and they were immediately instructed: Please get yuzu from an organic store in Japan and bring it with you to Germany. Because for Sebastian it was clear from the beginning: His distillery worked vegan and used organic ingredients. This fit very well with the philosophy of SUSHIYA. Already since the opening of the first Bentō stores in the city center (2006), as many ingredients as possible were used in organic quality. The Sansaro now even has a Organic certification.
First experiments: What can yuzu?
As soon as the yuzu arrived in Munich, Sebastian got to work: He meticulously dissected the exotic fruit and tested what was possible with a tiny mini-distill. He meticulously separated the exocarp, the shell of the fruit flesh, from the fruit juice, and separated the juice and seeds.
Yuzu - what exactly is it?
Yuzu belongs to the family of citrus fruits. In Japan, yuzu enjoys real cult status! The aroma of the fruit is wonderful and very special.
The flesh of the yuzu is very strongly interspersed with seeds. So, like an orange, you can't eat the fruit. People in Japan have found other ways to use the fruit: The oil is extracted and added to baths. The fruit juice is used in juices or desserts. The juice is also used to prepare the condiment yuzukoshō.
All citrus fruits have a particularly large amount of aroma in the exocarp. This is also the case with yuzu. The exocarp, the fine, colored membrane around the white layer on the outside of the flesh, is used in cooking. It flavors dishes.
Cosmic Spirit the best partner for special spirits projects
Cosmic Spirit enjoys an excellent reputation today, because the company works soundly and extremely accurately. Sebastian Rauscher already had this way of working back then. The fruit spirits from Cosmic Spirit have always been outstanding products.
So it's no wonder that the idea for the Yuzu Spirit came up here! Sebastian Rauscher's thorough way of working has almost Japanese features, and Alexander Reinelt is always fascinated by new products anyway... So after the first, successful tests with the yuzu imported by friends, Alexander unceremoniously set off to Japan himself and procured more yuzu. Of course, these were not just any yuzu!
More old friends: organic yuzu from Shizuoka
Based on the first tests with the two yuzu, Sebastian had already been able to find out how much yuzu would be needed to fill the still at least halfway. With this information in the luggage Alexander should go on the search for organic yuzu. Basically, it is not difficult to find yuzu in Japan during the yuzu season. But where to start? Especially for these exotic fruits some regions in Japan are famous.
Japanese acquaintance from 1980s
Alexander reactivated personal connections and traveled to his homestay daddy from the 1980s. Yuki Hiraiwa lives in Shizuoka, used to work in the city government and accordingly knew many people.
Together with Alexander, he set out to find a regional yuzu farmer in Shizuoka who also produces in the organic segment.
Adventure in the mountains
Alexander went by plane to Tōkyō, then on to Shizuoka by Shinkansen. As soon as he arrived in Shizuoka, Father Hiraiwa packed him and his wife Mari into the passenger car and drove to the mountains of Shizuoka.
They walked for several hours into the steep, rocky mountains, into regions that no city dweller normally enters. There they found the farm of Yoshiaki Taruwaki.
Organic yuzu from tea paradise
Shizuoka Prefecture is located almost in the middle of the Japanese archipelago. If you ask Japanese people about Shizuoka, they immediately rave about tea. This is because Shizuoka is known as a large tea-growing region.
Different natural habitats meet here, which only together unfold their breathtaking beauty: The view is free to the Pacific Ocean, yet Shizuoka is surrounded by mountains. The southern Japanese Alps almost protrude into the urban area of Shizuoka, Fuji-san crowns everything.
High-quality agricultural products from the rural, mountainous areas of Shizuoka are as famous throughout Japan as the excellent quality seafood.
Organic tea and organic yuzu
At Taruwaki-enTaruwaki Farm, organic yuzu grows in the direct vicinity of excellent tea. Yoshiaki Taruwaki, the founder of the company, has been growing tea trees entirely without pesticides for about 30 years and has not used chemical fertilizers since 2002. His field is located in the coldest area of Shizuoka and lies at about 630 meters above sea level. This area is also known in Japan as the "city in the sky" because it is almost as high as the Tōkyō Sky Tree with its 634 meters. And that is, after all, one of the tallest radio and television towers in the world!
The yuzu cultivation area on Taruwaki-en is the largest in Shizuoka Prefecture. The yuzu develop their extraordinary fragrance due to the temperature difference of more than 10 degrees Celsius between day and night, which is also a lot in the mountainous regions of Japan.
In harmony with nature
Normally, it is said that yuzu plants must be sprayed with pesticides about twenty times a year so that the fruits grow without blemish and rot. Taruwaki-san believes in living in harmony with nature. Pesticides destroy nature, so these are not farming methods he would support. He says, "If the yuzu trees are well cared for and properly pruned, pesticides are not necessary."
Nevertheless, he has had to fight hard and exercise a lot of patience in both tea cultivation and his yuzu. The next challenge is to bring the naturally grown products to the consumer. His son supports him tirelessly in this.
You can tell that the yuzu grow 100% naturally, without pesticides or fertilizers. They look a little uneven, are (quite atypical for Japanese fruit) grown misshapen. Yet they are full of natural energy! For the yuzu spirit in the Sansaro, they are the perfect foundation, both flavorful and organic!
How do the organic yuzu come to Germany?
Finding organic yuzu was only the first hurdle. Now it was a matter of bringing the fruit to Germany. How do you do that? Peculiar regulations make international trade in fresh produce especially difficult. Only fruit that has been massively sprayed and can prove this with an appropriate certificate may be exported from Japan. In the case of organic fruit, this in particular is extremely contradictory - but that is the regulation. How the contradiction was resolved in the end remains our trade secret. And that's how the organic yuzu finally arrived at Sebastian Rauscher, who painstakingly dissected them individually by hand with his characteristic meticulousness.
Spirit or fire: typical for the southern German region
A spirit or a brandy - these are typically southern German or Austrian distillation processes for turning fruit into (tasty) alcohol.
A spirit is a distillate in which the fruits are doused with a neutral alcohol. The alcohol extracts the flavors from the fruit. The mixture of alcohol and fruit is then distilled, here synonymous with distilled.
In order for the alcohol to absorb as many flavors as possible, each fruit was artistically and painstakingly dissected by hand by Sebastian. Caution is so important because you don't want to catch the seeds. They are full of bitter substances that we don't want in the distillate!
The result of our experiments with yuzu is an absolutely unique product - because a product like a ghost is basically unknown in Japan.
Unique organic yuzu spirit
Of course, in Japan there is Shōchu, a kind of liquor made from various basic ingredients and usually with about 25% alcohol. And more recently, there are all sorts of Japanese or Japanese-inspired gins made with yuzu. But no gin or Shōchu is made as purely from the best pieces of the fruit and only by maceration with neutral alcohol as our Yuzu spirit!
How does the Cosmic Spirits Yuzu Spirit taste?
Yuzu fills the nose with an intense fragrance. This is roughly comparable to smelling a high-quality essential oil. Yuzu does have a refreshing citrus scent, but not exactly lemon or orange. The scent is rather complex, with a hint of bitter notes, similar to grapefruit. Once you get to know this fragrance, you will be immediately seduced by it.
Basically, a spirit with its typical high alcohol content of about 30 to 45 percent focuses on aroma, not so much on taste. As a result, there is no pronounced acidity or sweetness on the palate. Instead, the slightly pungent note of the alcohol washes away the taste present in the mouth, leaving a refreshing finish.
Cosmic Spirits can of course not only yuzu
In the long years since then, Cosmic Spirits has found its way from the former studio of artist Sebastian Rauscher to the new distillery at Werksviertel Mitte. In between, it was still housed in a container. It was not until the fall of 2021 that the new premises were opened.
In addition to consistently gold award-winning regular products such as absinthe (highly recommended!), Harry Blue or Sakura gin (with real, pickled cherry blossoms), Cosmic Spirits is especially known for its special small batches of precisely selected fruit known, which is processed into uniquely good brandies.
Citrus fruits for the finish in sansaro
At our restaurant Sansaro, in addition to the Yuzu Spirit, we currently have the Moro Blood Orange and the Raspberry Spirit on the drinks menu for the perfect end to a meal.
If you're lucky and interested in more, you'll always find something special at Cosmic Spirits. Small editions and quickly sold out stocks make the products of Cosmic Spirits a special experience. There are treasures like the wonderfully aromatic Mandarin Spirit or the Five Hops. Some companies have their own small batches made up. We remember the "Hot Settler" from the Werksviertel!
Always stay up to date!
So it's worth to check out Cosmic Spirits via Facebook or Instagram to keep an eye on the specialties, selected with meticulousness and subtlety, before they are sold out. Sebastian also delights with distillery tours, for example as part of corporate or private events, in the new premises, which can of course also be visited as a private customer during opening hours. Sebastian is always open to share his expertise and enthusiasm for the products made from selected ingredients.
And if you want to taste the yuzu spirit described here, you will find it absolutely exclusively in the Restaurant Sansaro, as of the end of 2021 on the Drinks menubut only while stocks last!
Because whether this super elaborate experiment of a bio-yuzu spirit can ever be repeated is unfortunately very uncertain.