Midori is a bright green melon-flavored liqueur named after the Japanese word for green - Midori. It is made of a neutral base spirit, sugar yubari fruit, musk melon, and brandy. This sweet, fruity liqueur from Japan was first released in 1964.Best known as an ingredient in bright green cocktails like the Japanese Slipper or Midori Sour, Midori was a star of the 80s cocktail scene.
So, here's everything you need to know about Midori Melon - from ingredients to taste to the history of the liqueur.
What is Midori Liqueur exactly?
Midori is a Japanese Melon Liqueur of 20% to 21% ABV produced by Suntory. It is flavored with two types of Japanese melons; -Musk melon and yubari fruit. The result is a sweet-tasting liqueur with a subtle melon flavor reminding me of honeydew melon.
Midori means green in Japanese, so the liqueur is named after its artificially bright green color. The color is also one of its key features and gives any drink made with it a distinct shade of green.
The predecessor of Midori was Hermes Melon Liqueur, released by Suntory back in 1964. To better market the melon liqueur in the U.S., it was rebranded as Midori 14 years later.
It fell into disrepute and lost popularity due to its artificial coloring and sweet taste. But today, it is experiencing a moderate resurgence in cocktails. Used wisely, Midori gives a sweet and subtle melon flavor and a beautiful green color.
What does Midori taste like?
The taste of Midori is sweet and has a subtle melon flavor with a hint of mint. You can't really taste the melon type, though. I can best describe it as a mix of honeydew melon and muskmelon. The sweetness is a bit overemphasized and needs balancing. Thus, Midori is best enjoyed in cocktails.
What is Midori made from?
Midori consists of two different types of melons, both similar to cantaloupe but grown only in Japan. One in the North and one in the South of the country. Of course, there's more to it and these two would not achieve the iconic green color. So, here's the full list of ingredients in Midori Melon liqueur:
- Musk Melon: Musk melons originate in the Shizuoka and Aichi provinces south of Tokyo and are famous for creating high-quality melons.
- Yubari: Yubari melon comes from Yubari City on the Northern part of the island. The soil there contains lots of volcanic ash, providing a high nutritional value. Some of these melons sell for up to $200 per piece. Not too bad for a single fruit. Yubari fruits from Yubari City usually get harvested during summer, in June and July. The pulp is frozen immediately after the harvest to preserve flavor and freshness.
- Neutral spirit
- Cane sugar
- Green food coloring
How is Midori Melon liqueur made?
The first step in the production process of Midori is creating an intensely melon-flavored base spirit. This base spirit consists of three parts: A yubari infusion, a yubari distillate, and a musk melon infusion.
- Yubari infusion: This is made from a high-grade spirit and frozen yubari pulp. An added enzyme helps break the pulp, and the addition of sugar emphasizes the subtle melon flavor.
- Yubari distillate: This spirit is created in a low-pressure still. The ingredients used are frozen melon pulp, a quality spirit, and water.
- Musk melon infusion: Similar to the first, however, this third ingredient is produced only in the Shizuoka province.
All three components are blended into one rich and flavorful spirit of 59% alcohol by volume. It is almost clear, with only a slight shade of orange created by the melon fruit pulp.
The blended melon spirit is then shipped to France and Mexico for further refinement:
- In France, it's blended with Louis Royer Cognac
- In Mexico, producers add cane sugar until the liqueur reaches its final alcohol content of 20%.
Before bottling, the iconic green color comes from adding artificial green food coloring.
How to drink Midori?
The best way to enjoy Midori is in drinks that balance the sweet melon flavor of the liqueur. In combination with lemon juice and spirits, it can make for quite a versatile cocktail ingredient.
It's best when paired with a high-proof base spirit like vodka, gin, tequila, or rum that bring enough bite to counteract the sugary melon liqueur.
Midori Melon is also often part of drinks that contain more than one fruity flavor. Common pairings include lemon, lime, apple, raspberry, and pineapple. However, these are not for everyone and mainly address people who usually go for sweet cocktails.
The bottle design
Midori comes in only one size, an attractively designed bottle of textured glass that shows off the liqueur's bright green color. The combination of the green color and frosted-glass texture of the Midori bottle intends to resemble the surface of musk melon, one of the main ingredients.
The bottle has a rectangular base and is tapered toward the top. It has a small and understated black label and a black bottle cap.
History of Midori
Midori is the result of a lifelong dream of Suntory founder Shinjiro Torii, who always wanted to "create a colorful western-style liqueur".
First released in 1964, the product name was Hermes Melon Liqueur. When this Hermes Liqueur became one of the stars of the 1971 IBA Cocktail Championship in Tokyo, the idea grew to bring it to the American market. Suntory even changed the name of their successful product for this.
In 1978, the liqueur was renamed Midori (ミドリ), meaning "green" in Japanese, for a smoother introduction to the American market, where Hermes - just as in Europe - does not evoke the desired associations... And what an introduction it was.
Launched at the legendary "Studio 54" in New York, John Travolta was one of the first persons to consume Midori in the US. The liqueur immediately gained traction and created a big hype in the 80s.
Until 1987 Midori Melon Liqueur was exclusively produced in Japan. However, when it became a success, parts of the production moved to Mexico and France.
Today, 80-85 percent of the production volume of Midori comes from Mexico. France is producing the remaining 20-25 percent.
In 2013 a new version of Midori containing less sugar was released. That made it taste less sweet and more suitable for modern drinks.
Modifying the recipe was crucial for a successful comeback of Midori. Even more so in a time when people consume more consciously than in the 80s. The bottle design got slightly updated as well and is now frosted glass.
Midori is the first choice for cocktails containing melon liqueur. And because Midori was such hype, we have various cocktail recipes from the 1980s incorporating Midori. Probably the best-known among them is the Japanese Slipper and the Midori Sour.
The Japanese slipper is a three-ingredient cocktail invented by Jean-Paul Bourguignon in Melbourne in 1984. In Australia, this drink is still an icon and on the menu in many bars. If you want to try it, here's what you need.
- 30ml Midori
- 30ml Cointreau
- 30ml Lemon Juice
- 1 Cocktail cherry
Put the cherry into a chilled Martini glass. Put crushed ice into your cocktail shaker and add all ingredients. Shake well and carefully strain the cocktail into the glass. Garnish it with a slice of honeydew melon, and it's ready to be served.
A Midori Sour is a refreshing cocktail and easy to make at home. You can mix it in a glass. You don't need a cocktail shaker or any other bar tool. With its bright green color and sour taste, it is a perfect summer cocktail.
- 1 oz Midori
- 1 oz Vodka
- 0.5 oz Lemon Juice
- 0.5 oz Lime Juice
- soda water
- Lemon Slice
Pour vodka, lemon & lime juice, and Midori into a highball glass. Add some ice and stir it well. Finally, top it up with soda and garnish it with a lemon slice.
The bright green melon liqueur from Japan is an excellent cocktail ingredient to create brightly colored drinks. Midori's artificial coloring and borderline sweetness make it a bit controversial. Still, so far, no other melon-flavored liqueur has reached the success of Midori.