For centuries human taste has been confined to sweet, sour, salty and bitter which are basic tastes which are essentially independent of each other as you can’t make something salty by mixing sweet, sour, bitter. Then there is umami, but what is it?
Until recently, umami cocktails have caught the spotlight. People have become curious about the term Umami, which is the fifth taste, joining the other four tastes that are sweet, sour, bitter, and salty.
Umami, also known as monosodium glutamate, is originally from Japan and the Japanese expressions- “to have umami” and ‘umai’ mean tastiness or deliciousness. A dish is made wonderful not only by its taste but the various factors or elements that contribute to it. Similarly, umami plays an important role to determine the balance that brings out deliciousness in the dish.
The key components of umami are glutamate, inosinate, guanylate. Food items that exhibit it can be seen below.
Umami has 4 unique properties
- The taste spreads across the tongue
- It lasts longer than other basic human taste
- It provides a mouth-watering sensation
- A persistent lingering taste
The discovery of umami
In 1907, A Scientist in Japan named professor Kikunae Ikeda of Tokyo imperial university (now the university of Tokyo) savouring a bowl of boiled tofu in kombu dashi (a broth made from a kind of kelp), he was assured that there was a fifth basic human taste altogether. Fascinated by this idea, he began breaking down the components of the kombu dashi. After his research, he named this subtle taste umami.
Umami can be tasted in a variety of ingredients and is more familiar to us through the taste of food items like soy sauce, cheese, mushrooms etc. It has not only scored its way through the food but it blends perfectly with cocktails too.
As people continue to expand their palates with foods and drinks from different culture, they are introduced to umami-based food items. Chefs and bartenders around the corner of world are experimenting their menus with umami-based foods and cocktails.
The mushroom martini is an umami-based cocktail which has now become popular on social media platforms. It is not only rare but also delicious and good for your health. If you are intrigued with the concept, here is a recipe
- Ice cubes
- 2 ounces of mushroom infused vodka
- ¾ tsp maple syrup
- 5-6 dashes orange bitters
- ½ tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 1 dash aromatic bitters
For mushroom infused Vodka
- ½ cup dried mushrooms
- 1 cup vodka
- Add all the ingredients in a jar, seal and infuse for approximately 3 days. Strain and mix all the above ingredients in a cocktail mixer or jar.
- Transfer the contents into a glass and relish with ice.
Savory and earthy characteristics are not something that is expected from a drink but can be a pleasant contrast from the usual ones. It may not be as popular as spice but it’s probably a trend of taste that will continue to pop up on the menus in near future. Check out the recipe for homemade nutella if you are down for sweetening your life!