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Asian Restaurants Are the Center of Cocktail Innovation

No more sake duds. 

At Cold Drinks, on the second level of China Live, nearly all the drinks use a scotch base. 


Read more about the future of cocktails.

Until quite recently, most Asian restaurants’ attempts at cocktails have resulted in soju cosmos and sake bombs. Even the Slanted Door’s excellent drink program didn’t take much inspiration from its kitchen.

But at an ambitious new guard of high-end Asian restaurants, bartenders are diving into the pantries and surfacing with liquid gold. Now shiso leaves and yuzu are everywhere, from Nomica’s drink menu—which also uses miso buttermilk, pickled rakkyo, and red bean syrup—to Mister Jiu’s, where Danny Louie uses melons and teas in drinks with sesame and dill. Pabu, Michael Mina’s mega-izakaya, serves fine-dining-appropriate cocktails calling on tropical fruits mixed with plum wine and Japanese spirits like shochu, assembled in unexpected formats. Rooh’s drink list takes inspiration from India with cocktails that include mustard, ghee-fat-washed whiskey, gooseberry juice, and mulethi (licorice) foam. At Cold Drinks in China Live, rather than put the focus on regional food flavors, all the drinks are made with spirits beloved in China these days, most notably scotch whisky, which is featured in the fantastic $28 Long Islay Iced Tea.

Next: Viking drinks are so hot right now.


Originally published in the February issue of San Francisco 

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