Drinks, Conversation, More Drinks At the Epicurean Cocktail Feast

Kicking off the LUCKYRICE festival 2012 was a Bombay gin-fueled bash at the Bowery Hotel featuring some of New York’s most creative chefs and mixologists who were asked to serve two cocktails and a dish that best represents them. Mission, accomplished. The Cocktail Feast also showcased how Asian ingredients can be creatively incorporated into mixology, with citrus like yuzu and calamansi mingling with harsher herbs like galangal. We asked the mixologists—and chefs cooking the parings—about working with Asian ingredients, and for their craziest drinking story from a trip to Asia.

– Matt Rodbard


Tristan Willey and Karen Jarman of Booker & Dax

What was the process like to create your drink?

Tristan Willey: We were given Bombay to use and wanted to show some of the techniques we use at the bar. We use a lot of liquid nitrogen and have a lot of fun tools, so we wanted to make sure we had something that represented us. On one of the drinks we are creating powdered mint and suspending it into the Bombay. It really makes this brilliant color.

What was your craziest night of drinking in Asia?

Karen Jarman: I was in Brunei, where drinking is illegal, so I didn’t have a drink for two weeks. At the end of the trip I had a glass of wine at a house party with my cousin and thought that my cousin had drugged me, but it was only because my tolerance was so low.


Matt Lambert of Madam Geneva

Where do you want to travel next in Asia?

Bangkok for sure.

So it seems you went to Pok Pok Brooklyn...

Andy Ricker is onto something really interesting. He is so talented. It’s proof that the more you know about something, the more fun you can have. Pok Pok is awesome. His laab is ridiculous.

What was your craziest night of drinking in Asia?

Last year I went on a trip with a bunch of chefs to Malaysia and apparently they only sell vodka by the bottle there. There were four of us and we went through two and a half bottles at some nightclub with an open roof on the 24th floor of some high-rise building. The combination of the booze, and my fear of heights, made it pretty crazy.

Your dish tonight - what inspired it?

It’s something we used to do in the days of Double Crown and has worked really well.

How did you work with your mixologist on the drinks?

Me and Laura [Lashley] collaborated, which was pretty fun. And you get to drink (laughing).


Tuan Bui of An Choi

You’re doing a drink with durian fruit. That is sort of insanely cool…

We were thinking about staples of Vietnamese cuisine and durian is considered the king of fruits in Southeast Asia. People either love it or hate it. We made a drink with durian puree, coconut milk, Bacardi rum and ginger syrup. We’re excited.

What was your craziest night of drinking in Vietnam?

It was a hazy hot night in Saigon and I was with a bunch of my fellas and we’re at this bar, crazy drunk, and want to go to this underground party in another district so we hail this unofficial car and we start driving 75 miles an hour and I’m praying to Buddha that we get their safely. I blame the crazy Aussies I was with. It was like Midnight Run on Playstation.

How was the party?

It was insane. There were a lot of hot chicks.


Jason Littrell of Jbird Cocktails

How did you create the cocktails?

We all just sat down, looked at each other, and said to use some imagination. We made it a point of not using anything straight out of the bottle. So we did a lot of infusions, particularly for the Tuxedo, which is a gin martini variation.

What do you look for when targeting the Asian palate?

Asian culinary traditions can be very scary and different to the American palate. We weren’t looking to do the easy thing 400 times over. We just wanted it to taste good.

You are set up right at the entrance—which means you are the first drink people will have. Are you ready?

We are terrified. But we are ready.


Kenny Chin of B Flat

What is the vibe like at B Flat?

We are very serious about making our cocktails. There is nothing else to say.

What kind of ingredients are you using?

Mostly Asian-influenced. Always something special for the cocktail culture.

Why is Japanese barware so freaking amazing? I love my Yarai mixing glass.

They are the right size, not too big and not too small. They are meant to make one or two cocktails only.

Dan Greenbaum and Garrett Eagleton of The Beagle

What was the process like in bringing Asian ingredients into mixology?

Dan Greenbaum: Spice is the first thing that comes to mind, but we are also looking at ways to bring Asian ingredients into classic recipes. For the sour component of classics, you can use yuzu instead of lime juice. Essentially, we are plugging a new ingredient into that format.

What type of Asian food do you like eating?

Dan Greenbaum: I love Vietnamese food in New York, but you have to go to the outer boroughs to find the good stuff. That is not the case on the West Coast. Thai food as well.

WTF, you did an Asian version of Frito pie. Rock!

Garrett Eagleton: I’m from Texas, so I thought it would be funny to do a spin. For the ground boar chili we did Szechwan chili, star anise, cinnamon and clover. We also did cilantro and served it on shrimp chips.

Steve Schneider of Macao Trading Co.

What was the craziest drink you’ve had in Asia?

Last year I was in Hong Kong and they have a great drinking program there. But I was at this Japanese bar and it took them 15 minutes to make a gin and tonic. That was pretty crazy.

Anything else?

I just spent time in Taiwan and, to be honest, when I’m out there they are making the classics. In terms of crazy drinks, there is this rice wine in Vietnam that has a cobra in it. We have a bottle at Employees Only and made people try it.


Pichet Ong

How do you define an Asian style of cocktail?

A lot of the tropical fruits lend themselves really well to mixology—calamansi, yuzu, mango, pineapple. You can even use some of the herbs like cilantro and galangal. You’re starting to see this style of mixology worldwide—I’ve seen them in Australia and Dubai.

What was your craziest night of drinking in Asia?

Whatever happens in Bangkok, stays in Bangkok. There are quite a few bars on Khao San Road that I’ve been to.


DJ Justine D

How do you plan a DJ set for a LUCKYRICE event?

I actually really like playing for an Asian crowd because I feel like they are pretty open and, also, because I am part Asian. I like to play a lot of New Wave and older rock music.

You played Depeche “New Life” last year! Any chance for a repeat?

Nah, I don’t like to play the same set twice.

What was your craziest night of drinking in Asia?

I was in Thailand in 2005, in Ko Samui, and we were mingling with the lady boys and the Euro trash boys who were falling in love with them. Getting wasted, dancing to bad trance music and partying with lady boys.


Epicurean Cocktail Feast - LUCKYRICE Festival 2012