A lot of people – including barkeepers – are not overly enthusiastic when confronted with Midori Melon Liqueur. The sweet and vibrant green liquor isn’t up to everyone’s liking. Maybe, you never even heard of the Japanese Liqueur until recently. Nonetheless, you can find it on the shelves of many bars since the 80s. Midori is unusual, and without there being much competition, it started a remarkable comeback in the last few years. Let’s find out why.
What is Midori Liqueur
Midori is a melon Liqueur from Japan made by Suntory, a famous producer of Japanese whisky. “Midori” means green in Japanese, and the Liqueur truly delivers on that. It also has a sweet taste with a subtle melon flavor, making it more of a typical cocktail ingredient than a Liqueur that you drink as a shot. Only containing 20 to 21% abv makes it a suitable choice for low abv cocktails.
For a very long time, the creators and owners of Midori guarded the recipe closely. Which honestly wasn’t too bad as not many seemed to be interested. But as the Liqueur gained popularity again, more and more people wonder how it is made. To promote and introduce Midori to a broader public, Suntory revealed some secrets and details of its iconic bar ingredient.
Midori consists of two different types of melons, the yubari and musk melons. Both can be found only in Japan, one in the North and one in the Southern part. Yubari melon comes from Yubari city on the Northern part of the island. Because the soil here contains lots of volcanic ash that provides a high nutritional value. Musk melons originate in the Shizuoka and Aichi provinces. Those provinces are located south of Tokyo and are famous for creating high-quality melons. Some of these melons sell for up to $200 per piece. Not too bad for a single fruit.
The production process
Melons from Yubari City usually get harvested during the summer months, in June and July. The pulp is frozen immediately after the harvest to preserve flavor and freshness. This process is crucial for the quality of Midori because its key components are two products made from the frozen Yubari melon pulp: Yubari infusion and Yubari distillate.
Both of them are created by being processed with a high-grade spirit. For the Yubari infusion, an added enzyme helps to break the pulp, and the addition of sugar emphasizes the subtle melon flavor. The Yubari distillate, on the other hand, is created in a low-pressure still. The only ingredients are the frozen melon pulp, high-grade spirit, and water.
The third component of Midori Melon Liqueur is another infusion of musk melons produced in the Shizuoka province.
When mixing the three base components, the resulting product is 59 ABV. A rich and flavorful spirit, almost clear but with a slight tint of orange created by the melon fruit pulp. This base spirit then gets transported straight to Mexico and France for further refinement. By blending with Louis Royer Cognac and cane sugar, the Liqueur is finally brought to 20% ABV. Finally, the iconic green color is created by adding artificial green food coloring. The green color and the texture of the Midori bottle intend to resemble the musk melon, one of the main ingredients.
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. But initially, he promoted it under a different name.
In 1964, when first released by Suntory, the product name was Hermes Melon Liqueur. When the 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. That was when they changed its name.
The Liqueur was renamed Midori (ミドリ), meaning “green” in Japanese, for a smoother introduction to the American market. 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. The Liqueur immediately gained traction and created a big hype in the 80s.
Until 1987 Midori Melon Liqueur was exclusively produced in Japan. But when it became such a success, parts of the production moved to Mexico and France. Today, 80-85 percent of the production volume of Midori comes from Mexico, and France is producing the remaining 20-25 percent.
In 2013 a new version of Midori was released that contains less sugar. That made its taste less sweet and also more modern.
The modification of the recipe was necessary to make a successful comeback of Midori possible, in a time people consume more consciously than in the 80s. The bottle design got slightly updated as well, and Midori now comes in frosted glass bottles.
Famous Midori Cocktails
Midori is the first choice for cocktails containing melon liqueur. And because Midori was such a hype, there are a ton of recipes that include Midori. Probably the best-known amongst them are the Japanese Slipper and Midori Sour.
The Japanese slipper is a three-ingredient cocktail invented by Jean-Paul Bourguignon in Melbourne, 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, too. 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. And just as refreshing as a Spritz.
- 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.