Are you sick of drinking the same old soft drinks, beer, or shandy during Chinese New Year? Why not try making your own cocktails instead?
During a special workshop conducted by Rad Impressions recently, participants learnt how to make three specially designed Chinese New Year-themed cocktails using simple ingredients and tools that are easily available at any home.
Rad Impressions is a company that specialises in beverage education programmes, and organises bar courses, cocktail workshops for consumers, and even has its own Whisky Academy. It was co-founded by Shawn Chong, co-owner of specialty cocktail bar Omakase + Appreciate, which placed in the top 10 on the inaugural Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2016 list.
A three-time Malaysian winner of the Diageo World Class Reserve competition, Chong was the one who conducted the CNY cocktail workshop last week. Chong designed the three Chinese New Year cocktails to be very easy to make at home, and to prove that you don’t really need fancy equipment or ingredients to do your own bartending at home.
“All three cocktails are Chinese inspired, either in terms of the ingredients or in terms of the flavour. You can get all the ingredients for these drinks very easily from any supermarket,” said Chong.
The Pick A Date is a sweet and sour drink that has the savouriness of red dates, while the Dusky Daisy is a refreshing tipple that mixes tea with Scotch whisky and a local pandan-flavoured twist.
Last but not least, the Abundant Prosperity is inspired by and attempts to replicate the flavours of the mandarin orange.
According to him, most people have the misconception that making cocktails at home is a complicated process that requires fancy tools or ingredients.
“You don’t really need to buy fancy tools to shake your drinks. You can buy a simple plastic shaker at a store for less than RM10, or you can even use a mason jar as a shaker,” he said. “Instead of a jigger, you can use baking measuring spoons instead. And if you don’t have a strainer, just use a sifter.”
Chong also said that when it comes to ingredients, sometimes, homemade isn’t always the best.
“For instance, for the Pick A Date, you don’t need to make red date syrup from actual red dates. If you do that, you won’t be able to get a consistent flavour. Instead, you can just head over to the supermarket’s coffee and tea aisle and look for an instant red date tea packet and use that for your syrup!”
For the Dusky Daisy, which uses oolong and chrysanthemum teas, Chong said that you don’t really need to make your own tea. You can just buy bottled tea from the supermarket.
“The quality of those teas are actually quite good, and the flavour is always consistent. For the chrysanthemum, the bottled ones have some sugar in them, which is quie essential for that sort of tea,” he said. “The same goes for the grapefruit juice in the Abundant Prosperity – instead of squeezing your own grapefruit, you can just buy one from the store.”
“It takes a lot of trial and error to come up with a perfect, consistent recipe. So, if there is a ready-made product that can be used for your drink, then by all means, use it,” he said, adding that that doesn’t apply to lime or lemon juice, as there are no ready-made products that are good enough to be used as substitutes.
Another tip he gave for making your own drinks was to always pour the cheapest ingredients such as the syrups, juice or mixers first, before adding the spirits.
“That way, if you make a mistake before the drink is complete, at least you won’t be pouring away the expensive spirits!” Chong said. “Also, pour the thicker liquids like the syrups first, so that when you pour in the juice or spirits it can wash out the sticky liquid from the jigger.”
Follow Rad Impressions on Facebook (www.facebook.com/rad.impressions) for updates on its upcoming cocktail workshops and other activities.
PICK A DATE
20ml lemon juice
10ml red date syrup
2 red dates for garnish
Red date syrup: Dissolve 200g instant red date tea in 100ml water, and then leave to cool.
Put all the ingredients into your shaker, and shake well with ice. Strain into a chilled coupe or martini glass, and garnish with two red dates skewered on a long toothpick.
45ml Scotch whisky,
15ml pandan cinnamon syrup
20ml oolong tea
20ml chrysanthemum tea
chrysanthemum flower for garnish
enough ice to fill a rock glass
Pandan cinnamon syrup: Boil and dissolve 200g Chinese palm sugar in 100g water, then bring to a simmer and add in two cut-up pandan leaves and two cinnamon sticks. Let it simmer briefly and set aside to cool before straining.
Pour all the ingredients except garnish into a shaker with ice. However, instead of shaking it, Chong uses a technique called “rolling”, which is basically pouring the ingredients from one part of the shaker to the other. After rolling it for about 10 times, pour the drink, ice and all, into a rock glass.
15ml Rinomato (or any bitter Italian aperitif, such as Campari or Aperol)
15ml umeshu (plum wine)
30ml grapefruit juice
mandarin orange for garnish
Fill a highball glass with ice, and pour each ingredient into the glass (a technique called ‘building’, which means the drink is made in the same glass it will be served in). Stir well, and garnish with a mandarin orange slice on a skewer.
Michael Cheang doesn’t have a bar spoon at home, so he uses a chopstick instead. Drop him a note at the Tipsy-Turvy Facebook page (www.facebook.com/mytipsyturvy) or follow him on Instagram (@mytipsyturvy).