Happy 2009! Change has been a long time coming and it has been a pleasure to welcome this new year.
I'm a big believer in making the first taste of the new year a sweet one. Following a Japanese tradition, that means sake spiced with otoso. According to Wikipedia, otoso has its origins in China:
"The tososan mixture is said to have originated as a prescription of the famous Chinese physician Hua Tuo during the Three Kingdoms period. . . . It is typically made from Japanese pepper, asiasari radix, apiaceae, cinnamon, dried ginger, atractylodes Japonica, Chinese bellflower and rhubarb."
I find otoso in Japanese markets and only at the New Year. The bag of spices comes beautifully wrapped in washi. You need merely to drop the bag into a quantity of sake and let it steep as you would a tea-bag. The result is a golden liquid, fragrant and somewhat sweet. A sip (or a few) are all that's needed to make the beginning of a new year a bit of ritual.