Michele and I recently dined at a great little New York gem on Duane Street in Tribeca called Lotus Blue. The restaurant specializes in Yunnanese cuisine, from Southwestern China, which has influences from the cooking traditions of Sichuan Province, Burma, Vietnam and Laos. We began with an interesting twist on a Negroni, in which the gin had been infused with Sichuan peppercorns, giving the drink an added dimension and camphor-like effect. This got me to thinking about Chinese cocktail culture, a relatively new phenomenon, and how traditional Chinese spirits might be used in new ways.
Most Chinese spirits are distilled from either rice or sorghum, or sometimes a combination of sorghum and other grains such as wheat, barley or millet. They are generally, high proof and colorless. These spirits can be unflavored, or flavored, often with medicinal herbs.
Mei Kuei Lu is distilled from Sorghum, and flavored with rose petals, and sugar. I have often used it in cooking, most recently to steam some razor clams with tiny slivers of Chinese sausage (Lop Cheung), but my New York experience left me intrigued about how it could be used in a cocktail.
After a lot of thought and a bit of tinkering, I finally came up with the following recipe. (See my notes after the recipe). Although I am happy with the cocktail, I cannot seem to come up with a name that does it justice without sounding cutesy or trite, (like China Rose), so I’ll leave that up to you. I look forward to hearing some of your ideas.
And for a great Italian summer thirst quencher that comes with a name, check out Michele’s recipe for a Venetian Sgroppino in the Italian recipe section.
4 oz. Mei Kuei Lu
1.5 cups brewed, chilled Chinese Lychee Black Tea
2 Tbs. Kaffir-Rosewater syrup
Place all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with cracked ice, and shake vigorously. Strain into a martini glass, and garnish with three lychees on a skewer.
•Mei Kuei Lu is available at Truong Thanh Market, 65 Beach Street, Boston Chinatown
•Lychee black tea, and canned Lychees are available at Sun Sun Market , 18-20 Oxford Street, Boston Chinatown.
•The kaffir rosewater syrup is a simple syrup made with 2 parts sugar and 1 part water, 2 crushed Kaffir lime leaves, and 1 tsp. rosewater. Bring the water to a boil with the kaffir leaves and rosewater, add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Turn off heat, cool and strain. The kaffir lime leaves are available at Ming’s Market , 1102 Washington Street, Boston, or sometimes at Whole Foods. Rosewater is available at Middle Eastern grocers and at Whole Foods.
written by Jim Becker/Chinatown Guide