One of the recent cocktail trends for restaurant bars is a strong synergy between the kitchen and the bar. But how do you create a cocktail list for a restaurant renowned for big and bold Thai street food flavours?
When highly regarded Chef David Thompson opened Long Chim Sydney, James Connolly (pictured), Long Chim Perth’s Bar Manager was brought on board to set up the bar. We spoke with him about what it takes to create a cocktail list that complements Thai flavours.
“At Long Chim Sydney, the cocktails have elements of Thai cuisine and culture. With Thailand located in the tropics, tropical fruit prevails,” Connolly explains. “The cooking style has a lot of aromatics and dry spices and while there is a wide use of ingredients, some have limited availability such as strawberries so the focus it to remain true to Thai culture”.
Connolly applies two approaches for Thai food friendly cocktails. Some drinks are a little sweeter with some acidity structure to support the sweetness such as the Bangkok Painkiller. It has mandarin sherbet, oleo saccharum, coconut cream that’s prepared daily by the kitchen, Pandan essence and pineapple juice. Other drinks go flavour for flavour such as the Thai Basil Smash (pictured), adapted from Jörg Meyer’s famous Gin Basil Smash. Thai basil, star anise, agave nectar, chilli and salt go into a drink that complements the big flavours that are part of the Long Chim experience.
When it comes to the choice of spirits, gin is popular due to the aromatics and botanicals which blend well with food. Tequila and Mezcal also play well with Thai food which shares some elements of Mexican cuisine with the use of herbs, spices and acid structure. “Thailand has a burgeoning cocktail culture that’s evolving quickly,” he adds. “We hope to see more Thai spirits in the future.”
If there is one cocktail that is representative of an unusual flavour combination, it’s the Pomelo Spritz. “Pomelo is an interesting fruit not used in many cocktails lists. It has a thick, oily and aromatic skin and it’s used in salads in SE Asia. It represents the region and its provenance yet modern spirits integrate into the drink.”
Restaurant cocktail lists have come a long way. With experienced bartenders like Connolly, and Long Chim Sydney’s Bar Manager, Keegan Hartslief, they are raising the role that the cocktail bar plays within a restaurant. As for taking it to the next level, “Chefs have amazing palates, they know to extract the best flavour out of produce”. He recommends working with chefs and getting them to taste the drinks and have input.
“People want fun in restaurants and with modern dining, they want fun in cocktails too.”
Long Chim Sydney
Address: 14 Martin Place (via Angel Place), Sydney
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