10 Asian-Inspired Cocktails To Savor This Season

Food & Drink

With Lunar New Year celebrations taking place in Asian communities this week, what better way to join in than with a cool Asian-inspired cocktail? Bartenders across the country are coming up with creative takes on classics using Asian ingredients and spirits to enjoy during the festivities and well into the spring.

As 2024 ushers the Year of the Dragon, many bartenders opted to use dragon fruit in their drinks, which also make for refreshing and light springtime sips. Others chose unusual flavor combinations using ingredients like fish sauce and gochujang, and a combination of Western and Asian spirits in their creations.

From savory to sweet, bubbly and fruity, boozy and refreshing, here are 10 unique drinks from bars and restaurants across the country, with recipes so you can make them at home.

Savory Asian-Inspired Cocktails

The Dirty Dashi — Uchi

The Dirty Dashi was inspired by the ever-popular dirty martini. This vodka martini has a savory profile thanks to shiro dashi — a fish-based broth that can contain ingredients like bonito and kelp — to boost the umami punch of this Japanese-inspired libation to 11.

  • 2.25 oz Tito’s Vodka
  • 0.75 oz Dirty Dashi Mix (recipe below)
  • 3 olives, for garnish
  • Nori salt rim (recipe below)

Rim a chilled cocktail coupe with nori salt. Pour all liquid ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously. Strain into coupe and garnish with olives.

Dirty Dashi Mix

  • 16 oz olive brine
  • .75 oz shiro dashi (store bought or home made)
  • Blend and store in a glass jar or bottle.

Nori Salt

  • 2 cups Maldon salt
  • 10 toasted nori sheets

Pulverize salt and nori sheets in a Vitamix or food processor. Store in a tightly sealed jar in a dry place.

Furusetto – Aiko, Houston, Texas

Josh Baugh, Cultural Ambassador of Duckstache LLC., set out to create a cocktail that combined the savory and spicy flavors associated with sushi. He combined wasabi syrup, wasabi-soy powder, and candied ginger with tequila to achieve his purpose.

“After tasting the cocktail with chef Patrick Pham, he said “Man, all you’re missing is a piece of sashimi.” We both died laughing, and I knew that would be the final touch to make this cocktail stand out. In our restaurants, when guests request ginger, wasabi, and soy, we call it a “Full Set” or “Furusetto” in Japanese.”

  • 2 oz Socorro Blanco Tequila
  • 1 oz wasabi syrup (recipe below)
  • .75 oz Mera yuzu juice
  • Kinjirushi wasabi-soy sauce powder
  • Candied ginger
  • Sashimi grade bluefin tuna

Prepare rocks glass with wasabi-soy powder rim. Add blanco tequila, wasabi syrup, and yuzu to a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously for about 15 seconds. Fine strain over ice into prepared glass. Garnish with candied ginger and bluefin tuna.

Wasabi syrup (makes about 16 fl. oz.)

  • 200 grams water
  • 200 grams granulated sugar
  • 240 grams Kinjirushi grated wasabi

Heat water on low, stir and slowly add the granulated sugar, stirring until dissolved. Once all sugar is dissolved, add grated wasabi and blend with an immersion blender. When the wasabi is well blended, strain syrup through cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer to remove any clumps of wasabi and set aside to cool.

Kimchini – Apothecary, Dallas, Texas

A Korean-inspired dirty martini from this avant-garde cocktail lounge that uses kimchi instead of olives, and adds a touch of heat with gochujang. The mushroom soy sauce adds umami, while Aveze — a French liqueur made from gentian — adds a bitter, herbal touch.

“By using fermented cabbage and a couple other elements, the cocktail not only delivers on the “dirty” texture and flavor, but goes one step further. It’s richer, funkier, spicier, and all around a cocktail we’ll keep drinking long after we take it off the menu” — Tanner Agar, CEO and Creative Director.

  • 2 oz. kimchi vodka (recipe below)
  • .5 oz Aveze
  • . 25 oz. gochujang mushroom soy sauce (recipe below)
  • 2 dashes celery bitters
  • Sheet of seaweed snack as a garnish

Kimchi Vodka

Get a jar of your favorite kimchi. Funkier is better; mild, underdeveloped kimchi doesn’t have much to offer. And it’s best when made with dried shrimp. Vegan alternatives don’t quite pack the punch. Drain all the liquid and replace it with vodka. Let this infuse on your counter for at least two days and up to a week.

Gochujang Mushroom Soy

Combine equal parts by weight of gochujang paste and mushroom soy sauce. Mix to combine. “Store in the fridge and it’ll probably last forever!” — Tanner Agar

If you like peanuts and cola — sắp sửa, Denver

Denver’s sắp sửa is the brainchild of husband-and-wife duo Anna and Ni Nguyen, where they share non-traditional Vietnamese food inspired by Chef Ni’s childhood memories. The restaurant just landed a nomination for James Beard’s 2024 Best New Restaurant Semifinalist after only six months in business.

“This cocktail is a beautiful culmination of classic Vietnamese flavors. The nuttiness from peanut-infused bourbon balances out the umami from the fish sauce while the cola syrup adds a touch of sweetness. Almost all of our inspiration at the bar comes from the ingredients they’re working with in the kitchen, so this cocktail plays off of those traditional Vietnamese Lunar New Year dishes that Chef Ni celebrated with as a kid.” — Lo Fox, Bar Manager

  • 2 oz. peanut infused bourbon (recipe below)
  • Generous 1/4 oz. cola syrup (recipe below)
  • 3 dashes Red Boat fish sauce
  • Crushed peanuts

In a mixing glass add bourbon, cola syrup and fish sauce. Add ice and stir. Dip rim of rocks glass in a mixture of equal parts fish sauce and cola syrup, and then into crushed peanuts. Strain cocktail into garnished rocks glass over a large ice cube.

Peanut infused bourbon

  • 750ml Legent bourbon
  • 1/2 cup roasted unsalted peanuts

Place bourbon and peanuts in an airtight container and infuse for 48-72 hours. Strain bourbon through a coffee filter and discard peanuts.

Cola syrup

Combine 4 (17 oz.) bottles Mexican coca cola and two cups white sugar in a saucepan and put on medium low heat. Stir occasionally until reduced to a syrup (about 20-25 minutes.) Keep in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Asian-inspired cocktails for Lunar New Year

Year of The Dragon – The Peached Tortilla, Austin Texas

A citrusy, fruity riff on the gimlet, this Chinese-inspired cocktail featuring dragon fruit is refreshing and vibrant, a lovely and bright spring drink to be enjoyed all season long.

“Once I realized that the zodiac for the Chinese New Year was the Dragon, I immediately wanted to use dragon fruit. Kind of on the nose, but it was very on brand for the Asian fusion approach of the Peached Tortilla. Dragon fruit has a great texture but can be a little underwhelming from a flavor standpoint, So I opted to use a dragon fruit syrup instead. I kept it simple and created a riff on the classic gimlet.” — John Frazer, bar team.

  • 2 oz. gin
  • 1 oz. fresh lime juice
  • .75 oz. dragon fruit syrup

Shake over ice and strain into a chilled coupe.

Up in Smoke – Wu Chow, Austin, Texas

Bar Manager Johnny Soumphonphakdy created this cocktail to honor Lunar New Year. Baijiu is a Chinese grain liquor with a musky taste and sweet fruity notes, which balance the smoky mezcal and marry with the dragon fruit juice.

“We wanted to emphasize the colors red and gold within the cocktail because these are two very popular colors in Chinese culture while celebrating the New Year. Red symbolizes good fortune, vitality, joy, and happiness. The garnish for the cocktail, the toasted coconut crumbles, represents the color gold, which symbolizes wealth, longevity, and happiness.” — Johnny Soumphonphakdy.

  • 1 oz. mezcal
  • .5 oz. Baijiu
  • 1 oz. Velvet Falernum
  • .5 oz. coconut milk
  • 2 oz. dragon fruit juice
  • Toasted coconut for garnish

Build in a shaker with ice, shake well then double strain into a martini glass. Sprinkle with toasted coconut shavings.

Year of the Dragon – RedFarm, NYC, Miami & Austin, Texas

RedFarm is a NYC-based modern Chinese restaurant with locations in Miami and Austin, Texas. Shawn Chen, Beverage Director created this citrusy, herbal cocktail as the restaurant’s Lunar New Year special.

“With the refreshing tang of grapefruit liqueur, the delicate sweetness of plum and the exotic allure of dragon fruit shrub, each sip is a symphony of taste sensations. Infused with a hint of thyme tincture and brightened with a citrus, this cocktail is a tribute to adventure, prosperity, and the boundless possibilities of the year ahead.” — Shawn Chen, beverage director

  • 3 dashes thyme tincture
  • 0.50 oz. lemon juice
  • 0.75 oz. dragon fruit shrub
  • 0.50 oz. Giffard Pamplemousse
  • 0.50 oz. plum wine
  • 1.5 oz. Roku gin

Add all the ingredients into a shaking tin. Add ice, shake and double strain into a wine glass filled with kold draft ice. Garnish with a thyme sprig and dehydrated dragon fruit slice.

Bright Asian-Inspired Cocktails For Spring

Lychee Lemonade Mimosa – East Meets West, Austin Texas

This Chinese-inspired mimosa riff makes the perfect welcome cocktail to any party or brunch. Bubbly and bright, it will pair fabulously with spicy Asian food as a delightful apertif. Be sure your sparkling wine is Brut, or as dry as possible.

  • 4 oz. lychee lemonade (recipe below)
  • 1/2 oz. yuzu syrup (store bought)
  • 4 oz. Prosecco, Cava or Cremant

Pour lemonade and syrup into a Champagne flute, and top with the sparkling wine. Garnish with lemon or lime zest.

Lychee Lemonade

  • 2 cans lychee in syrup (15oz. each)
  • 3 medium lemons
  • 1 cup white sugar

Take the lemons and apply pressure with your palm, roll on the countertop to soften them and make them easier to juice. Cut each lemon in half and use a citrus juicer or reamer to extract the juice. Strain the juice through a fine-mesh sieve to remove any seeds or pulp if desired. Pour lychee and syrup into a clean container, add lemon juice and sugar. Blend the lychee mix with a stick blender on low for 30 seconds or sugar is completely dissolved. Make sure to keep it pulpy.

Yuzu Colada – Sakazuki, Detroit

At Sakazuki, the newest concept that opened in Detroit’s Book Tower, this tiki-esque drink is served in a whimsical blowfish glass, but you can use any tiki-style glass or a tall Collins glass. Think of it as a Japanese-inspired piña colada.

“To me, the piña colada is the ultimate, transportive cocktail. Yuzu pairs beautifully with coconut, and the sake adds a whole other dimension to the familiar flavors of the classic. The Yuzu Colada is a joymaker, and I hope it puts a smile on everyone’s face.” — Natasha David, Method Co.’s creative beverage director

  • 1 oz. yuzu infused sake
  • 1 oz. white rum
  • 1.5 oz. pineapple juice
  • 0.75 oz. coconut mix (3 parts Coco Lopez, 1 part coconut milk)
  • 0.25 oz. lemon juice

Shake all ingredients and strain into glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with an electric cherry, paper umbrella and pineapple wedge.

Asian-Inspired Cocktails For Dessert

Cafe Sua Espresso Martini — Lee’s Kitchen + Cocktails, Austin, TX

Many restaurants have an espresso martini on their menu — it’s a classic for a reason. When creating the bar menu at Lee’s Kitchen + Cocktails, the team wanted to include the cocktail but with a Vietnamese-inspired twist using Vietnamese coffee rather than espresso.

  • 2 oz vodka or tequila of your choice
  • 1 oz Vietnamese coffee (recipe below)
  • 0.5 oz cacao turbinado syrup (recipe below)
  • 0.25 oz Licor 43

Add all ingredients into a shaker and shake, then shake some more. Double strain into a coupe or martini glass, garnish with cacao nibs and enjoy!

Vietnamese coffee

  • 3 tsp ground Cafe Du Monde coffee
  • 2 T condensed milk

In a Vietnamese Phin (or coffee press) brew coffee and mix with condensed milk until cooled.

Cacao Turbinado Syrup

  • 200g turbinado sugar
  • 200g water
  • 30g cacao nibs

Combine sugar and water and heat until almost boiling. Remove from heat and add cacao nibs. Let nibs sit for 30 minutes (do not stir) and strain, leaving only the syrup.

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