Cherry blossom season is in full swing in the UK at the moment, with different varieties opening up each day as the weather warms. March is also the month for blossom in Japan, with the official sakura season expected to start around the 21st March in Tokyo this year – which also marks the start of the process for extracting the cherry blossom we use in Everleaf Mountain.
In true listicle spirit, here are seven things about one of our favourite ingredients:
 

What is cherry blossom season?

The genus Prunus includes around 430 species, including cherries and lots of other stone fruits, like plums, peaches and apricots. The cherry trees we tend to associate with blossom don’t also give us fruit though, they’re varieties that have been bred for centuries to give cloud-like displays of delicate flowers. The specific one we use is Prunus speciosa, the Oshima Sakura, native to Japan, though now found around the world. Depending on the location, these cherries flower between March and May, but their astonishing displays only last a week – one of the reasons they’re associated with transient beauty and mortality – in Japanese “mono no aware”, or a sense of bittersweet impermanence.

What’s the link between cherry blossom and mountains?
Our cherry blossom comes from Shizuoka prefecture, around 180km SW of Tokyo. Those pictures of cherry trees in valleys with Mt Fuji in the background? That’s the place. They’re also inextricably linked in my head from a few years living in China - where I’d cycle in the mountains around Beijing, through orchards of cherry blossom each Spring.

How does the cherry blossom get in Everleaf?
It’s not straightforward… first, the blossom is picked by hand in March/April and brined. The young leaves are then also harvested and also pickled a few months later. After 3-4 months, the fermented blossom and leaves are made into a tincture, some of which is also vacuum distilled. As it can only be made once a year (and is very expensive!), we have to base the production of Mountain around this ingredient.

What does it taste like?
There are elements of fresh cherry blossom perfume on the nose, backed up by a rich fermented sweet-savoury flavour that’s really complex. It’s a little like strong chamomile, with succulent vanilla pod, fudge, and hints of toasted cherry bakewell… For me as a bartender, it has a lot of vermouth-like character.

What else is it used for?
There are various Japanese mochi (sakuramochi), sweets, cakes and buns made with pickled cherry blossom at this time of year – the salty-sour flavour working perfectly with the sweet dessert. They can also be used to make a delicately savoury tea infusion.
These trees don’t produce the big cherry fruit we like to put in Manhattans, though botanically-speaking, they’re all from the same genus Prunus.

Where’s the best place to see cherry blossom in the UK?
If you’re London-based, then Kew Gardens has a celebration of sakura each year along their Cherry Walk, as does the RHS gardens at Wisley. If you’re after some of the earliest blossom, then perhaps try Trelissick Garden in Cornwall (if you’re not too late already). Cherry trees have a long history of being used as diplomatic gifts too, with many new trees being planted around the country in the last few years as part of the Sakura Cherry Tree Project.

Where are the best places to drink Everleaf Mountain this Spring?
Alongside some of our delicious at home Mountain cocktail recipes, you can also find amazing non-alcoholic spritzes and cocktails in some of our favourite bars and restaurants in the UK. Why not head into one of the many Bill's sites for a Cherry & Raspberry Spritz?
Or, if you are looking to head out for Mother's Day (Sunday 27th March) then we suggest heading down to one of six of The Botanist sites (Marlow, Bath, Farnham, Reading, Cardiff or Exeter) where Mums can claim a free goodie bag and enjoy a selection of Everleaf non-alcoholic cocktails on the menu.
 

Make at home recipes...

(just pick up a bottle from our website, Amazon, or in Marks & Spencer Food Halls)

Non-alc
“Mountain Spritz”
Of course, our signature serve is always a Spritz!

50ml of Everleaf Mountain, topped up with light tonic and garnished with sliced strawberries (or freshly picked cherry blossom – just rinse gently before use).

Everleaf Mountain Spritz
 
“Cherry Leaf”
A variation on the Clover Leaf recipe from Harry Craddock’s 1930 The Savoy Cocktail Book which uses gin and grenadine.

50ml Everleaf Mountain
15ml lemon juice
10ml raspberry syrup*
15ml aquafaba (the water from a tin of chick peas - or use egg white)
4 mint leaves

Add all the ingredients to a shaker with ice, and shake really well. Fine strain into a cocktail glass (to remove the crushed mint leaves), and garnish with another fresh mint leaf and/or a fresh raspberry.

* for the raspberry syrup, my favourite method is to crush two cups of raspberries with 1 cup of unrefined sugar in an empty jar, then leave for half an hour for the sugar to draw the juice and flavour out of the fruit. Dilute with just a little water, and strain to remove the fruit (a muslin or jam bag is ideal).

 

Cherry Leaf
Lower abv
“Cherry Blossom in Manhattan”
A floral Manhattan with a cherry blossom nose.

25ml Everleaf Mountain
25ml your preferred Bourbon or Rye whiskey
25ml sweet vermouth
1 dash of aromatic bitters

Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a cherry blossom and a maraschino cherry.

Cherry Blossom in Manhattan