Cocktail & Other Recipes By Spirit Vodka Cocktails

Pho-King Champ

Three short glasses with broad bases hold a strangely dark brown and cloudy drink, the pho-based Pho-King Champ. They are surrounded by dried spices and each garnished with a single cilantro leaf.
Image: Midnight Rambler

Savory, umami-focused cocktails are not unheard of, but neither are they the norm, with most drinks focused more on the balance between bitter, sweet and sour. Likely, the most famous of the savory family of drink is the Bloody Mary and its many offshoots. However, others, less famous, also exist, and one such drink is the Bull Shot, which essentially swaps the tomato juice in the Bloody Mary for beef bouillon while keeping the Worcestershire, spices and hot sauce.

Despite its name, however, the Bull Shot is generally served as a full drink—that gets altered with the Pho-King Champ, which swaps the beef bouillon for Vietnamese soup broth and serves the whole thing as a single savory shot. “A twist on the classic Bull Shot reimagined through the lens of Vietnamese pho,” is how Chad Solomon, the co-creator of Midnight Rambler in Dallas, describes it. The name is a nod to the defunct San Francisco avant rock band The Fucking Champs, who were forced to change their name from The Champs when they were called out by the original 1950s band.

Along with vodka and a bit of dry sherry for some extra salinity and richness, the house-made pho broth is the backbone of the drink. While labor-intensive, it provides an intense depth of flavor. If you don’t want to take the time to make it, you can set aside a few ladlefuls from your favorite pho joint. However, if you do opt to make the broth for the drink, there’s nothing keeping you from adding some noodles, bean sprouts and Thai basil to the leftovers for a full bowl of soup at home.

Ingredients

  • 2/3 ounce Absolut Elyx vodka
  • 1/4 ounce Dry Sack 15-year-old oloroso sherry
  • 1 ounce pho broth*
  • 1/4 ounce lime juice
  • 2 drops mineral saline (1 part kosher salt to 9 parts mineral water, such as Crazy Water #4 from Texas)
  • Garnish: cilantro leaf

Steps

  1. Add all ingredients into a shaker with ice and shake until chilled.

  2. Strain into a shot glass.

  3. Garnish with a cilantro leaf.

*Pho broth: Roast 1/2 pound peeled and quartered white onion and 2 ounces peeled and halved ginger root at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Grind and pan-toast 3/4 teaspoon black cardamom, 3/4 teaspoon green cardamom, 8 star anise pods, one 3-inch stick cassia bark, 1 1/4 tsp black peppercorns and 1 teaspoon allspice. Add ground and toasted spices, roasted onion and ginger to 1 quart boiling no-sodium beef stock. Remove from heat, let infuse for 30 minutes and fine-strain through a chinois followed by a 50 micron superbag. To the strained broth add 1 teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 teaspoons fish sauce, 1/3 teaspoon Sriracha, 2 1/2 tablespoon hoisin sauce, 1/3 teaspoon Bragg liquid aminos and stir well. Store in the refrigerator.