Highballer at Obon (Photo by 510 South)

Obon’s Hot New Cocktail Menu Will Keep You Cool This Summer

July 5, 2023
By Mark Whittaker
By Mark Whittaker

The best part about summer is that somehow it makes sushi just taste that much better. If you think about it, sushi is the ultimate hot-weather snack food. It’s cool, it’s tasty, and it’s uncomplicated — it’s sushi! Bite after bite during our months-long desert swelter, a good sushi roll just seems to make sense as a beat-the-heat nibble. 

Downtown’s own Obon Sushi + Bar + Ramen has always been that outlet we all need when the days and nights are nearly too torrid to handle. Not only is the atmosphere cool and calming but the food and drinks are as well. Newly appointed bar manager Shannon Day has developed a summer drink menu reflecting that coolness and calm we have all come to appreciate from Obon. 

Obon Sushi + Bar + Ramen (Photo by Isaac Stockton)

The funny thing is that Day has only been bartending there for a year and this is the first bar menu that she has ever crafted. Hey, no pressure! It’s obvious that she has talent because the new drinks are stunning and quite potent as well. 

“Well, I feel like we’re always just trying to have drinks that kind of stand out,” said Day. “Anytime we’ve rolled out a new menu, it’s always been stuff that I’ve never seen anywhere else or that you can’t really get anywhere else. So, that was kind of the beginning of just trying to make it unique. I also want to bring out summertime flavors and make it one of those experiences where people want to come and sit on the patio and have a few drinks — make it fun and interesting.” 

“Fun and interesting” can only describe the Onsen A Lifetime cocktail. Named after the cleansing natural hot springs in Japan, the drink is a refreshing mixture of house-infused cucumber vodka that mingles with fresh ginger and honey. Its simplicity only dazzles with its yummy complexity as all flavors move in tight unison.

Onsen A Lifetime at Obon (Photo by 510 South)

It’s wise to pair this drink with Obon’s Pressed Hamachi, incorporating beech mushrooms and truffled ponzu, or the Yuzu Yellowtail that features orange zest, crispy ginger, and a house soy sauce. 

“What’s kind of interesting about this is that Obon has been around for eight years now and we’ve had cocktails with Nerds in them and Pokémon cards attached to the glass,” said Obon’s Director of Operations, Daniel Thomas. “I just told Shannon, ‘Hey, let’s go somewhere.’ You can literally drink every cocktail on Shannon’s menu and there’s no way you won’t enjoy every single one she has come up with.”

Another summer sip stand-out is the addition of the Thai-Gers Blood imbibement. Here, we have a classic margarita that is infused with juicy blood orange and Thai basil. If this doesn’t transport you to the shores of Singapore in some locals-only tiki shack during a monsoon rainstorm, not too sure what will.

Thai-Gers Blood at Obon (Photo by 510 South)

Go for any of their Bao Buns as you partake. Jackfruit, chicken, pork, or the Spam. They are all tasty and won’t fill you up too much because you’re going to need some room for a Pineapple Express

The Pineapple Express is more than a pineapple daiquiri. It’s a pineapple explosion — a pineapple slushie but for grownups. Quality rum, fresh pineapple, and then whipped up top with a pineapple cream foam. If you aren’t keen on pineapple, stay clear of this tipple, but if you are indeed a fan of the spiky tropical fruit, then climb aboard the express. 

If I were you I’d go poke or ramen with the Pineapple Express.

Pineapple Express at Obon (Photo by 510 South)

Another item on the food menu that is fairly new and needs your attention is the Cucumber Salad. It’s distinctly Obon with its execution and presentation. Done sunomono-style with pickled Fresno chiles, cilantro, and crispy garlic. In the heat of the day or the wavering post-sunset fever, it’s not just a salad. It’s a savior. On a plate.   

All of the sake at Obon is flown in special just for them from a specialty brewhouse in Japan and, get this, an Obon Japanese pilsner is in the works. So, keep both your eyes and your belly open and ready for that beautiful promise. 

Obon has also been receiving 100-pound bluefin tunas that are processed on the premises for upcoming dinners. It’s the kind of sea haul you only really see on your TV or some foodie reel.

a piece of meat on a grill
Yellowfin that’s prepped in-house at Obon (Photo by 510 South)

This also coincides with Obon doing Box Sushi, which is a culinary process of filling up a contraption with rice, ingredients, and fish then pressing it all together, making the components impel into a fantastic flavor scrunch. 

“The biggest thing is this approachable cocktail menu,” said Thomas. “Every single cocktail — everything’s fresh. It’s awesome.”

You better start making your reservations to Obon now because it’s obvious your summer just got booked.

Obon Sushi + Bar + Ramen is located at 350 E. Congress St. For more information, visit obonsushi.com.

Obon Sushi + Bar + Ramen is a Foodie 500 Restaurant Partner.

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Mark Whittaker began his journalism career in San Francisco around 1997. It was for a small Northern California music magazine that segued into contributing to numerous magazines, websites, newspapers and weeklies throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s. Mark interviewed bands,...

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