A Whisky Love Story: The Rita's Song Cocktail

April 12, 2013

There was one thing whisky distiller Taketsuru Masataka loved more than the spirit he brewed and that was the love of his life, Scottish-born Jessie Roberta Cowan. Taketsuru, the first Japanese to study the art of whisky distilling, arrived in Scotland in 1918. It was love at first sight when he and Jessie, who later became known as Rita, met. Despite opposition from both families, the couple married within a year and soon after returned to Japan. 

A strong and modern woman, Rita mastered the Japanese language within months and worked hard to help support her husband while he continued the art of distilling. In 1923, she taught English and lived alone while Taketsuru went away to build his distillery. The Second World War was a difficult time for a Westerner living in Japan, and she was often seen as the "enemy." Nevertheless, at the end of the war Rita was one of the main architects in the reconciliation between Japan and the United Kingdom.

In 1952, Taketsuru changed the name of his distillery to Nikka Whisky. Throughout her life, Rita provided an enormous amount of support to her husband and was key in the development of Nikka. A popular figure in Japan, she is still remembered as one of the great founders of Nikka.

In 2001, Single Cask Yoichi 10 Year Old was voted "Best of the Best" by Whisky Magazine. In 2007 (as well as in 2009, 2010 and 2011), Taketsuru Pure Malt 21 Year Old was recognized as the "World's Best Blended Malt Whisky."

The Rita's Song cocktail pays homage to the great love affair of these two whisky icons.

Rita's Song
Recipe from Anchor Distilling

2 ounces Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt 12 Year Old Whisky
1.2 ounce 15 Year Old Sherry
2 dashes Dr. Adam's Boker's bitters
1/4 ounce simple syrup

Serve on 1-2 large ice cubes.