The New York style Italian steakhouse Bistecca opened in 2016 with a signature Chocolate Martini that sold up to 40 to 50 glasses a night. Two months into opening, the stellar Union Group bar team (consisting of Kiki Moka, Aldi Upay, Mirwansyah and Eric Opung) were faced with a country-wide shortage of white chocolate liqueur. After purchasing the last that was left of Bols and De Kuyper from distributors, they soon realised they had a week’s worth of stock left before they would have to declare the drink sold out for the foreseeable future.
Hot off the heels of some expert distillation training with Luke Whearty, the brains behind Operation Dagger in Singapore, the Union team put their newly acquired rotary evaporator skills to the test. After four to five iterations using cacao butter (too buttery), cacao powder (too bitter), they finally settled on a recipe using white chocolate compound, cacao nibs and vanilla. The resulting liqueur had a creamier texture and a more unique and prominent chocolate flavour than all the previous chocolate liqueurs they had previously bought and used.
There are countless examples of other bartenders showing innovation and creativity through adversity in Indonesia. Gentian liqueurs from the team at Wishbone Semarang; mocha liqueur from Yutaka-san at Koda Bar; strega and falernum liqueur at Pantja and in-house aquavit and Absinthe at A/A bar. Each of these bartenders knows and understands that certain liqueurs have been made for decades (and in some cases centuries) by expert craftspeople and that no amount of research or development will be able to accurately match or surpass products like Chartreuse. However, in the cases mentioned above, the championing of Indonesian ingredients allows these homemade liqueurs to take on local flavours and culture in the finished cocktail. In doing so, cocktail lovers are able to experience local twists to classic cocktails that are unique and culturally tied to Indonesia, allowing for a richer and more fruitful drinking experience.