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What is Midori?

By Brendan McGuigan
Updated May 16, 2024
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Midori is a liqueur made with melons. It is occasionally drunk on its own or with ice, but is most commonly used in fruity mix drinks, such as a Midori Illusion. The word midori in Japanese simply means 'green' and is an ideal description of this liqueur – which has a rich green color, reminiscent of green absinthe.

Midori is produced by a Japanese company, Suntory, which also produces a number of other alcoholic beverages and soft drinks. In America, Suntory is perhaps best known as the company that produces the whiskey Bill Murray is filming a commercial for in the Sophia Coppola film Lost in Translation – a film whose premise was loosely based on Coppola's father’s own experience filming a commercial for Suntory in the late 1970s. Suntory unveiled its first melon-flavored alcohol in 1971, called Hermes’ Melon, but this liqueur never really achieved any sort of popularity outside of Japan. In 1978, however, Suntory tried again by releasing their Midori Melon Liqueur, and that time everything went right.

The launch party, held at Studio 54 in New York City at the height of its popularity, helped to push Midori into the mainstream. Other well-aimed product placement also helped to make Midori a hip new drink among the burgeoning crowd of club-goers – the final shot of the film Saturday Night Fever for example, is of a Midori billboard. The same year, a signature cocktail using Midori, called the Universe, won first place in the US Bartenders’ Guild’s Annual Competition.

Midori comes in only one size, an attractively designed 70cl bottle made of textured glass that showcases the bright green color of the liqueur. The bottle is roughly square, tapering up to the top. The Midori label is very understated, with a small brand logo on the front near the mouth of the bottle.

As a liqueur, Midori is fairly alcoholic at 40 proof (20%). It is somewhat syrupy and has a gravity of 1.0513, making it somewhere in the central range for layered drinks – roughly the same gravity as Irish Cream or cherry brandy. The taste at first is quite subtle, but as one’s palette becomes accustomed to the drink, the flavors come out much more strongly.

The overriding flavor is, of course, that of melon. Unlike some liqueurs, which keep their flavors very mild, Midori is most definitely a melon drink. The taste is most like a honeydew or other similar melon, with a strong sweetness that can best be offset by tonic water or something similar. Many drinks are made using Midori, and in addition to signature cocktails like The Universe and The Illusion, classic drinks such as the martini or margarita may be made substituting Midori for one of the ingredients.

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Discussion Comments
By anon174290 — On May 10, 2011

The Bar was the legendary "Tips", located on the Lyon's Ave exit, 1-3/4 miles south of the Magic Mountain parkway exit in Newhall, CA. Bobby Batugo was the mixologist, The ICC of 73; the Blue Heaven; the Test Pilot, the Universe, the Casa d' Oro (my favorite); the Lapu Lapu. I die every time I think of them, and the place. I would pay 5k right now for the custom menu they used.

After closing, they opened up for awhile in town but closed a long time ago.

If it's still there, you can cross over I-5 on Lyons Ave and about 2-3 miles down there is a small bar in a strip mall on the right which still serves the drinks. Mahalo

By anon43003 — On Aug 25, 2009

i recall a winning drink of his called The ICC of 1973.

By anon15805 — On Jul 21, 2008

Who was the bartender who invented The Universe which won 1st place in the 1978 US Bartenders Guild Annual Competition? I think it was Bobby Batugo (not sure of the spelling) who was a bartender at Ti's in Valencia. Where would I find other drinks that he concocted?

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