New Ninniku Crispy flavor was designed specifically to pair well with alcoholic beverages.

It was only a few days ago that we found out that KFC Japan had created a new flavor of fried chicken that’s specifically designed to pair well with alcoholic drinks. Rather than even pretend that we were going to resist the lure a fried food-and-booze session when we had a professional duty/excuse, we quickly went out to procure some Ninniku Crispy, as the new flavor is called, pour ourselves a stiff drink, and get to taste-testing.

▼ The Ninniku Crispy is offered both a la carte and as part of the Cheers Bucket/Kanpai Barrel (カンパイバーレル)

A Cheers Bucket with three pieces of Ninniku Crispy and four of KFC’s Original Recipe is 1,680 yen (US$11.20), and as soon as our taste tester Tasuku Egawa was back home he opened the bucket’s lid and peered inside.

The two different chicken flavors are each wrapped in their own bundles, but even before he saw the Ninniku Crispy he had an idea of how it would taste, based on how it smells. Ninniku is the Japanese word for “garlic,” and its unmistakable scent rose up from the bucket with astounding strength.

Unwrapping the Ninniku Crispy, Tasuku noted that its breading has a very brown color, and is sprinkled with sesame seeds, which is sort of similar to how Japanese pubs season their chicken wings.

Starting with a bite of the chicken, the Ninniku Crispy absolutely lives up to the promise made by its name. This is a powerfully garlicky bird, with soy sauce notes adding an enticingly tasty undertone to each and every bite as well. It’s so good that Tasuku thinks that out of all the various flavors of fried chicken KFC has sold over the years, this might be their very best ever.

Next, Tasuku needed a drink to pair with his fried chicken, and he decided on straight gin.

Some of you might arc your eyebrows at the choice of hard liquor, but Tasuku can’t overemphasize how loaded with garlic the Ninniku Crispy is. It’s about three times as strong as he’d expected, and while that’s not at all a complaint, he figured such powerfully flavored food would match well with a drink that also makes its presence felt, and that turned out to be true. The Ninniku Crispy and gin complemented each other amazingly, both filling him with such a sensation of warmth and satisfaction that when he looked down what felt like just a minute later, all of his Ninniku Crispy had disappeared!

▼ He doesn’t mention whether he also downed his whole glass of gin within a minute, or sipped at a more leisurely pace.

So is KFC Japan’s Ninniku Crispy perfect? Maybe, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have any issues with the Cheers Bucket, Like we said earlier, the Cheers Bucket comes with three pieces of Ninniku Crispy and four pieces of KFC’s Original Recipe. Moving on to the Original Recipe after earing all of the Ninniku Crispy, Tasuku was surprised at how ho-hum it suddenly felt.

And just to be clear, Tasuku isn’t some sort of fried chicken snob who’s got a beef with KFC. Ordinarily, he quite enjoys chowing down on a piece or two of Original Recipe. This time, though, coming right on the heels of the Ninniku Crispy, he couldn’t help comparing the two, and it was a comparison the Ninniku Crispy wins by a wide margin. Since there’s no all-Ninniku Crispy bucket available, the best option is to get it a la carte, which costs 290 yen for a single piece or 600 for a set of three.

▼ Ordinarily a bundle of Original Crispy would make Tasuku’s heart sing, but not today.

So to recap, full marks for KFC Japan’s new booze-friendly fried chicken, and our only complaint is that we didn’t eat even more of it in one sitting.

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