Las Vegas bartender Mariena Mercer Boarini has been experimenting with Szechuan buttons for years, and this cocktail she created for The Chandelier bar at The Cosmopolitan hotel in Las Vegas featuring the zippy herb has become one of the bar’s most popular signature drinks. The Verbena is somewhat of a flavor rollercoaster with its namesake ingredient bringing a soft, lemony creaminess to the tequila-based drink’s flavor profile while Asian citrus fruits yuzu and calamansi brighten things up considerably, setting the stage for the small-yet-mighty garnish to shine.
While the yellow flower bud—also referred to as the “buzz button”—might seem unassuming, the Szechuan button’s effect on drinks is different from anything most palates have experienced. The bud releases a naturally occurring alkaloid that delivers an intense numbing or tingling sensation in the mouth. In response, the salivary glands temporarily go into overdrive, making your mouth water, which is quickly followed by a cooling sensation in the throat and back palate.
Needless to say, cocktails that incorporate this wonder ingredient or garnish are like a sensation roller coaster. Boarini has found that the Szechuan button works extremely well with citrus, ginger and vegetal flavors, all of which the Verbena has in spades.
- 6 lemon verbena leaves
- 1 ounce ginger syrup*
- 1 1/2 ounces blanco tequila
- 3 ounces yuzu-calamansi sour mix**
- Garnish: Szechuan button
Add the lemon verbena leaves and ginger syrup into a cocktail shaker and gently muddle the leaves.
Add the blanco tequila and yuzu-calamansi sour mix into the shaker with ice and shake until well-chilled.
Strain into a double rocks glass filled with fresh ice.
Garnish with a Szechuan button.
*Ginger syrup: Combine 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar and 1/4 pound ginger (peeled and thinly sliced) in a saucepan. Heat slowly, stirring until sugar dissolves. Simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool and strain out solids.
**Yuzu-calamansi sour mix: Combine 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar in a saucepan. Heat slowly, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and let cool. Combine with 1 cup freshly squeezed yuzu juice and 1 cup freshly squeezed calamansi juice.