Cocktails For The Lunar New Year!

20140201 lunar new year cocktails-3
20140201 lunar new year cocktails-3

The turn of the seasons, the start of warmer weather, casting out evil spirits and beginning anew – the Lunar New Year is upon us, and throughout Asian culture, it's a time for celebration.  The Chinese Year of the Wooden Horse is in full swing, and what better way to observe the occasion than to come up with some new cocktails?

I've spent the last few days in New York's Chinatown, watching the parades, enjoying the atmosphere, and going grocery shopping at the market under the Manhattan Bridge – then returning home, and cooking giant Asian meals and experimenting with beverages, in an attempt to reflect the excitement of the Spring Festival in delicious (and intoxicating) ways.

In that spirit, here are a selection of recipes for your enjoyment, some flavorful libations to sip on while welcoming the New Year and looking ahead to springtime.

(All special ingredients and garnishes can be easily found at your local Asian market.)

20140201 lunar new year cocktails-1
20140201 lunar new year cocktails-1

Winter Plum Blossom

  • 3 oz. Bombay Sapphire Gin (substitute Sapphire East for an extra-spicy experience)
  • 1 oz. Plum Wine
  • 3 oz. Ginger ale

Combine ingredients with ice in a mixing glass, mix well, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with a lemongrass stalk, and float a piece of star anise on top.  (If you want an extra flavorful + visual kick, use a sprig of Thai basil as an additional garnish.)

20140201 lunar new year cocktails-3
20140201 lunar new year cocktails-3

Mount Song

Fill a highball glass with ice.  Add Vodka, pomegranate, and Ginger Liqueur.  Pour aloe to top, and stir well.  Squeeze in lime, garnish with a lemongrass stalk and a shiso leaf.

20140201 lunar new year cocktails-2
20140201 lunar new year cocktails-2

Southern Lion

(This drink draws inspiration from the traditions of Southern China – Lapsang Souchong tea originates in the Fujiyan province, and performances of the Southern Lion dance are a vital part of the Chinese New Year celebration.)

  • 2 oz. Bourbon (substitute Rye for an extra hint of spice)
  • 1/2 tsp. Lapsang Souchong Liqueur*
  • 4 oz. Ginger Beer
  • Squeeze of lemon

Fill a highball glass with ice.  Add Whiskey and Lapsang Liqueur.  Squeeze in lemon. Pour ginger beer to top, garnish with a slice of Mandarin orange.

*To create the Lapsang Liqueur, combine:

  • 1/2 cup Orange Liqueur (I recommend Grand Marnier or Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao, but Triple Sec will do in a pinch)
  • 2 tsp. loose Lapsang Souchong tea

Let the mixture steep for 3-4 hours, then strain into a bottle. Discard the tea solids, and label the bottle immediately, to avoid later confusion.

These are just three fun Asian-inspired cocktails to play around with – the Lunar New Year celebration lasts for fifteen days, so there's plenty of time to test these out, and perhaps even invent your own! If you do, please feel free to share the recipe in the comments section below.