Jill Cockson likes Tom Waits. If the name of her speakeasy bar, Swordfish Tom’s, doesn’t tip you off, then the Big in Japan, her take on the classic Tom Collins, might. Named for one of the lead tracks on his 1999 release Mule Variations, the drink is significantly lighter than most of Waits’ music, unless you appreciate Waits’ particular brand of humor. Cockson does and blends it into many of the drinks on the small-but-focused cocktail menu at her tiny bar located in the boiler room of a building in the Crossroads (210 W. 19th Terrace).
The Tom Collins is really lemonade for grownups—gin, simple syrup, lemon juice and a bit of soda for sparkle. The Big in Japan twists the basics and starts with Suntory Toki, a Japanese whiskey. This lighter whiskey is made for cocktailing and when blended with lemon and the aromatics of mint and cucumber, makes for the most festive sardonic cocktail.
Big in Japan
11/2 ounces Suntory Toki
3/4 ounce lemon juice
3/4 ounce simple syrup
Muddle cucumber and mint together in a shaker. Cockson emphasizes that any sealable vessel can work for this, including a Ball jar or old pickle jar, as long as it is thoroughly cleaned. Add whiskey, lemon juice, and simple syrup and shake vigorously over ice for 15 to 20 seconds. Double strain into a tall Collins glass over ice. Top with soda water and garnish with cucumber and mint.
To create the garnish, take a slice of cucumber and score in an “X” through the middle. Take a sprig of mint and insert into the X, spear with a toothpick and balance on the rim of the glass.