Recipes

Lee Chee by Cross Yu

Photo: Leo Liu

Epic Shanghai owner-bartender’s creamy cocktail uses lychee and osmanthus in the mix – only because it works in the drink. 

The idea of creating this drink came from sweets I once tried with three different flavours: lychee, vanilla and yogurt. I don’t think they produce them any more but I found them quite interesting, and when I saw a bottle of yoghurt liqueur in my fridge I used the memory of those sweets as a starting point for a cocktail on our new Drink & Pretty menu at Epic.

Lychee is a seasonal fruit, but the ones used in cocktails like a Lychee Martini are usually canned, because it’s hard to get rid of the cores. I think that affects the freshness, but meanwhile, if you only put the fruit, it’s less juicy. So I went for Monin syrup instead – it’s a more intense flavour. I also added some pink grapefruit juice – it is bitter yet sweet, and it’s refreshing, which will perfectly balance the lychee’s sweetness.

As for gin, it is more popular nowadays than to vodka, and it’s a great pairing for something fruity. I wanted the drink to be creamier – you know, 90 per cent of our guests are female and they like something sweet and creamy. When it turned out to be too sweet – yeah, even for a drink that is targeted at sweet-toothed female drinkers – I thought that osmanthus wine could work. It’s similar to vermouth as a wine base but more interesting. It’s a perfect match for lychee’s fruitiness and the distinctive taste of gin. I also added a little fresh lemon juice to further balance the sweetness.

There was a trend for using Chinese ingredients a few years ago, especially at competitions, I think that’s passed. I’m not interested in using Chinese ingredients just for the sake of it – some bartenders do that and it makes drinks one-dimensional or unbalanced. I try to look to the main profile of a drink, then think about ingredients to match it. If Chinese ingredients can do that, then cool. There are a lot of ingredients in this cocktail, but as a whole, the combined flavour is really unique. And the photogenic presentation of the edible petal and gold leaf make it a hit among most of our drinkers.

Lee Chee

30ml London dry gin
20ml Osmanthus wine
30ml Yoghurt liqueur
30ml Pink grapefruit syrup
15ml Lychee syrup
5ml Lemon juice
2ds Vanilla extract
1 Egg white

Shake all ingredients and serve in a cocktail glass over ice. Garnish with an edible petal and gold leaf.

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