The key ingredient in Everleaf Mountain - Japanese Sakura Cherry Blossom

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 starting around the 16th March in Tokyo – which also marks the start of the process for extracting the cherry blossom we use in Everleaf Mountain.

What is cherry blossom season?

The genus Prunusincludes 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 isPrunus 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.

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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 do the RHS gardens at Wisley. If you’re after some of the earliest blossom, then perhaps try Trelissick Garden in Cornwall. 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, which you can find in our cocktail page here (Everleaf Non-Alcoholic Cocktails). We also have created a list of venues in London offering our Cherry Blossom Cocktails using Everleaf Mountain. Enjoy the spring season ahead.