Five centuries ago, mirin was enjoyed as a beverage by Japanese drinkers with a sweet tooth.

In more recent times, the syrupy liquid, brewed from rice and fortified with sugar, has become an essential condiment of Japanese cuisine. With its notes of sweetness and alcohol, the golden yellow liquor is often used to balance the salty intensity of soy sauce.

Mirin is commonly used by itself or with other flavorings as a glaze, its sugar content helping fish, chicken or tofu acquire a comely sheen. Simmered with soy sauce, ginger and other flavorings, mirin plays a central role in many teriyaki sauce preparations.

Not wining: With an alcohol content ranging from 10 to 14 percent, mirin is grouped with wines. But since makers partly distill mirin to remove impurities, it belongs in the brandy family.

> Pineapple Bacon Teriyaki Bites

For the teriyaki sauce:

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup white or brown sugar

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar or white vinegar

1/4 cup chicken broth

1/4 cup mirin

1/8 cup fresh grated ginger

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 1/2 tablespoons water

For the bites:

1 pineapple

1 pound sliced bacon


Preheat oven to 400 F.

Mix all sauce ingredients except cornstarch and water in a medium pot. Simmer over medium heat until combined well, stirring often, about 5 minutes.

Raise heat to low rolling boil. Mix cornstarch and water together well until milky, and pour into pot, stirring constantly until mixture thickens. Remove from heat.

Peel pineapple and cut into 1-inch chunks. Cut bacon strips in half lengthwise.

Wrap one half-slice bacon around one chunk pineapple, and secure bacon with toothpick. Place on rimmed baking tray, lined with foil for easier cleanup. Repeat until bacon is used up; there will probably be leftover pineapple.

Brush bites with teryaki sauce and put tray in hot oven. Baste every 5 minutes until bacon is crisp, about 20 minutes. Serve warm.

ON THE WEB: Stick it to party cravings with these toothpicked pineapple bacon morsels.