Those pink and yellow takeout menus from your favorite neighborhood Asian restaurants are more than junk drawer fodder—they’re inspiration for your next cocktail. Bartenders around the world are experimenting with transforming the umami richness of Asian soups and dishes into aromatic, savory and unforgettable cocktails. These are three of the best, no chopsticks required.
There’s nothing quite like this tangy, spicy sipper at Six Senses resort bar The Den on Koh Yao Noi, Thailand, while taking in the sweeping views of Phang Nga Bay and the islands and rock formations in the distance. It’s reminiscent of the Thai hot and sour soup, and the drink’s secret weapon is TomYam syrup made from a closely guarded recipe. (“Tom” refers to the boiling process, while “yam” is a spicy and sour salad.”) It has been replaced here with palm sugar syrup. To amp up the aromatics, muddle more makrut and lemongrass, as well as some galangal and ginger.
“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 this drink. 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. The house-made broth has incredible depth of flavor. But if you don’t want to take the time to make it, set aside a few ladlefuls from your favorite pho joint.
“It’s a fusion and reflection of our culinary direction and cocktail creativity,” says Laine Peterson, the manager of The Up Room in Chicago’s Robey hotel, about this cocktail variation on the popular Chinese side dish. “It’s something familiar, a Moscow Mule meets globally influenced comfort food in drink form.” Lemongrass refreshes while sesame and ginger offer a savory note and tepache—a fermented spicy pineapple liqueur originating in Mexico and South America—adds sweetness. The original recipe called for duck fat to be sprayed on top, but that’s been omitted to appeal to vegetarians.