COCKTAILS: Perilla Smash

Updated: Mar 4, 2020

The versatile perilla leaf mixes with bourbon in this cocktail recipe. The result? A smashing success. —INGRAIN, Summer 2019

RECIPE / Ken Hunnemeder

When my wife, Debbie, introduced me to the perilla leaf, the first thing I wondered was How would it work in a cocktail? Since she’s also a big bourbon fan, that’s where I started.

Often incorrectly labeled as “sesame leaves,” kkaennip or perilla leaves are not related to the sesame plant (perilla is in the mint family). They are also often mistaken for Japanese shiso leaves; the latter have a stronger minty flavor and are smaller than the flatter and larger perilla leaves. Whichever name is used, the leaves have a unique flavor, with notes of licorice and mint and wafts of cinnamon.

Koreans use raw perilla leaves as a wrap for meats or toss them in salads; stir-fried leaves are often marinated and served as a banchan. Look around and you’ll see more and more of the leaves on the menus of non-Korean restaurants and even at cocktail bars. Our local claims to fame: Chicago chef Stephanie Izard of Girl & the Goat serves a dish with mussels in a marinated perilla vinaigrette.

We’ve also seen the leaves appear in the Vietnamese-inspired dishes at HaiSous (eggplant confit with perilla leaves and crushed peanuts) and in cocktails (tequila, perilla, pinot grigio, shochu, lemon juice) at Izakaya.

Makes 1 cocktail

2 ounces bourbon

½ ounce simple syrup (equal parts sugar + water)

½ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 egg white

4 perilla leaves

2 ounces 312 Dry-Hopped (Goose Island)

COMBINE 2 ounces bourbon + ½ ounce simple syrup + ½ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice + 1 egg white + 4 perilla leaves in an ice-filled cocktail shaker.


Vigorously (like you mean it) for 10 seconds or longer.

POUR 2 ounces 312 Dry-Hopped into a rocks glass and strain shaker ingredients into glass. Serve immediately.

Grocery List: Perilla Smash