Iyokan, Citrus iyo, is a kind of orange grown down on the island of Shikoku in Ehime Prefecture. And it's basically just Ehime Prefecture growing them -- they represent 90% of Japan's iyokan production. Flavor-wise they aren't as sweet as a mikan (Citrus unshiu) but they're certainly not sour either. Let's go ahead and try and make some drinks!
The iyokan is known for its juiciness and shiny really orange peel. Even more orange than... an orange. They can be peeled by hand just like a mikan, and they're certainly larger in size. From a cocktail-making perspective we should take note the following:
- They produce a LOT of juice. I measured 100ml of juice, juicing just a single fruit. We should be able to get a lot of mileage out of iyokan, and they only cost me only 130 yen a pop.
- The peel produces some wonderful citrus aromas. So by all means go to town with those garnishes! The peel is quite thick.
- Flavor-wise we're looking at something not quite as sweet as an orange so this probably won't do as a straight-up substitute. I guess we'll find out.
Iyokan don't really have a long history. In 1885, Masamichi Nakamura discovered iyokan down in Yamaguchi Prefecture. Though there isn't any record of exactly how that happened, iyokan are thought to be an accidental cross of oranges and mikan. In any case it was a mere 3 years later that Yasunori Miyoshi, operator of a fruit farm in what is now Ehime Prefecture, purchased a tree from Nakamura-san. Miyoshi-san returned to Ehime with his tree and went on to grow a heap more around present-day Matsuyama City. If you're wondering about the name, Iyo is the name of the province that preceded Ehime Prefecture. So as far as bizarre Japanese fruits go, the iyokan is pretty tame.
I doubt Miyoshi-san ever thought a gaijin up in Tokyo would be trying to use his iyokan to make a cocktail, but here we are. Let's get into it.