An interesting combo of Chinese olives, jasmine tea and chilli oil by Adrian Xu from BRUMA in Shenzhen, China. Interview by Elle He, edited by Shu Mi.

“This is the third edition of our Italian-themed cocktail menu. Classic Italian cocktails tend to lean towards sweetness, so this time we wanted to incorporate elements of Chinese and Japanese cuisine to interpret our understanding of modern Italian flavors. By using unusual oriental flavors, we aimed to construct entirely new cocktails.

There are many similarities between Chinese and Italian cuisines in terms of ingredients and techniques. Take olives as an example. They are a source of pride for Italians. China also has its own olives, but the processing methods are different. I come from the Chaoshan region in south China which is known for growing olives, so they have been part of my life since childhood. So I thought, ‘why not use Chinese olives to make a Dirty Martini?’

I chose Chaoshan liquorice olives – a type of dried olives flavored with liquorice – as the main flavor for this cocktail. One challenge in selecting olives is that there are many brands and preserving methods, so we had to continuously experiment to find the ideal combo. Even now, every time we purchase olives, we buy several varieties to compare and then mix them together. We get the complex flavors of liquorice olives by continuous chewing, so we use a blender to mix the olives and London dry gin together before infusing and distilling. After distillation, the olives lose some of their sweetness, so I add a bit of Lillet Blanc to enhance the sweetness, as well as a small amount of Bob’s Abbotts Bitters to add a woody flavor.

The main flavor of this cocktail comes from Chaoshan olives, and our approach at BRUMA has always been to find ingredients that resonate with the main flavor. In Chaoshan, locals drink tea all day long. To them, tea can be paired with anything. So I thought tea would be a good choice. The slightly bitter and sweet flavor of Chaoshan olives clashes with black tea, while green tea may have a weak presence in cocktails. For instance, the flavor of jasmine tea may not be strong enough and only leaves a slight bitterness in the final drink. In the end, we decided to use Jasmine Dragon Pearls whose flavor is rich enough to be preserved after infusing and distilling with vodka, without stealing the limelight from the olives.

If it were just olives and tea, I think this cocktail might be a bit boring. When creating cocktails at BRUMA, we pay attention to layering. So, I added a bit of spiciness to make the final drink more interesting. We used Chongqing chili oil: separate the red oil from the chillies, replace it with extra virgin olive oil and infuse for one week. This makes the taste softer while retaining the original savory and spicy taste of the chili oil.

In the Chaoshan dialect, the pronunciation of ‘Jack Juice’ is similar to drinking. When you take a sip of this Dirty Martini twist, you can taste the salty and sweet flavor of olives, followed by the fragrance of jasmine tea, and occasional bursts of spiciness, making it complex and full-bodied. My guests from the Chaoshan region especially like this cocktail because olives and tea are things they often come into contact with, but they never thought both of them could be combined in a cocktail. It’s like sipping their daily life from a glass, which makes them feel special.”

Click below to view recipe:

Jack Juice