Asian ingredients like mandarin, yuzu and Thai ginger are being introduced to spice up cocktails.
The infatuation with Asian cuisine has been a long going trend around the world, and now, the menu has moved from the mains to the bar. Connoisseurs and regular tipplers alike are leaning towards drinks with a bit of an Oriental twist added to it. The array of tastes ranges from spicy to sweet and even salty ingredients are being seen as refreshing new additions to many cocktail menus.
Even though Asian-based cocktails have been around for a while, a new generation of mixologists are working behind bars to create cocktails that are genuinely Asian, rather than the exotic sounding offerings that most fancy bar menus promise.
Whether it is putting an Asian spin on a classic cocktail or creating a new drink altogether, there are a variety of ways that mixologists add an oriental twist to a cocktail. The beauty of a good Asian cocktail lies in its ingredients. Fresh fruits, as well as aromatic herbs, have been a go-to option for experimental drinks.
A lot of ingredients are finding their way from behind the counter, and into your drinks. These include the likes of Thai chilli, kaffir lime, lemongrass, agave nectar, different types of teas, fruits and vegetables like mandarin, yuzu, Thai ginger, grapefruit, lychee, coconut and tamarind.
Traditionally, bitters have been a base for many cocktails that strayed into the unconventional cocktail zone, but Asian infused cocktails take it one step further by passing over the bitters for a dash of spices. In what may turn out to be the next signature cocktail recipe; the addition of spicy ginger or chillies are slowly catching on. Along with a distinct aroma, such cocktails also heighten the presence of the ingredients, making the cocktail an interesting affair.
Some bartenders use Asian wines or liquors such as sake, plum wine, shochu or Japanese whisky while others infuse vodka or Schnapps with an Asian ingredient to create a unique fusion. Vodka’s flavorlessness makes it adapt to the stronger flavours of other ingredients like green tea, Thai chilli, yuzu, Lemongrass which let you get tipsy with a taste.
The most important thing to know is the preference of the guest. Whether they prefer light or dark spirits or a fruity, multi-flavored spirit. Either way, the Asian ingredient rack has a pick for everything.
Like any cocktail, using good quality liquor and fresh ingredients is the key. The balance of sweet and sour in relation to the liquor is the typical driver of the flavours. Considering how pungent certain Asian ingredients can be, it’s important to extract only the correct amount of taste from them.
And lastly, just like Asian food, the idea is to create an experience with every drink. Mixing till flavours blend can be a frustrating process and for many, Asian styled cocktails may still be an acquired taste. For the trend to really catch on, catering to every palate is needed, and fortunately, there are enough infusions to make something for everyone!
Akshay Khaire is a mixologist at My Regular Place, Mumbai