Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Learning From Asian Non-Alc Drinks and Mocktails

My Icy Berry Cocktail. Exploding with
a molecular Port foam.
It's no small secret that I'm somewhat of a sinophile -- everyone around me knows it, and most people familiar with my writing or online work know about it too. I'm always looking for ways to integrate what I like about Far Eastern cultures with what I like about the west. The countries of the Far East have a fairly broad non-alc beverage culture, which we simply don't experience to the same degree here in North America. With the exception of course, of Asian bubble tea cafes, or similar. While we do have a fairly strong coffee and tea culture, we simply do not experience the broadness of variety that Asian cafes do.

A pitcher of watermelon flavored cocktail, served
in at a Japanese Izakaya restaurant in Vancouver, called Suika.
Mocktails at most western restaurants are fairly limited as well -- virgin Caesars, virgin Mojitos, virgin Coladas, and Shirley Temples. My opinion about many of these drinks is already littered all over this blog, but perhaps I have been just a little bit too harsh. They are all attempting to emulate the experience of cocktailing, but just happen to mostly fail miserably at it. Of course, my point of contention has always partially been the over the top fruitiness or lack of depth created by alcohol -- that alcohol free drinks should not be created as just the same thing minus the booze. That last point is also why I've gone through quite a bit of trial and error to craft different types of alcohol free mojitos, that stand on their own, or have a distinct character separate from a real Mojito.
Some kind of 'Lattea' something or other, at the
Taiwanese Pearl Castle Cafe in Burnaby, British Columbia.
The foam layer is quite thick, and rich.

There are a few dimensions to these Asian drinks that I try to emulate from time to time:

  • The inclusion of solid ingredients, such as tapioca, grass jelly or barley.
  • The mixing of nonstandard ingredients, such as coffee and tea.
  • The coordination of bright or contrasting colours, with exploding garnishes.

As somewhat of a classicists, or prohibition cocktail snob, these points can be a bit of a hassle for me to wrap my head around. Nevertheless I have done quite a bit of experimenting in the realms of mixology and molecular gastronomy, with an eye toward Asian styles. What I've been having even more trouble with is trying to hybridize classic cocktail styles with the above principles.

Oolong Milk Tea with Grass Jelly, from Mr. Mustache in
Vancouver. In the words of Trump, "The Best!"

I would also like to take a step back from trying to emulate those points in proper cocktails, and return to mocktails. Mocktails are often boring, bland, or at best two dimensional. There is a lot to be learned from the multi-dimensionality of the bubble tea culture. Perhaps that last statement will make some laugh, however, I think it holds true.


  1. I've always wondered what BSG's "Ambrosia" must taste like. It's super green, almost bright glowing green. People have tried making recipes, but they seem more like cocktails. BGS shows it as more like a spirit, maybe like a brandy or scotch, something that you'd drink neat.

    I'm saying this because, I don't know man, you should get on this and figure it out.

    1. I'll do some research and see what I can come up with. Something else I'd like to look into is the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster from Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker Guide to the Galaxy books. I've seen people trying to "emulate" it, but they almost always just steal the name and attach it to some drink that they think looks alien-like. I feel like it has to stay true to the original recipe in some sense though; i.e., using the human versions of all the ingredients.-


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