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In the Kitchen with The Source: Chinese New Year Cocktails
January 21, 2014 | 9:00AM

Words and photos: Stephanie Breijo

Though New Year’s Day has come and gone, there’s still some “Welcome to 2014″ celebration yet; after all, why ring in a new year once when you can do it for days on end? For all those party people–or at least those into excellent wining and dining–we’ve got great news: Chinese New Year is just around the corner and it’s here to bring you happiness, wealth and longevity (with a healthy dose of fantastic food).

It is, after all, the Year of the Horse, expected to be bright and cheerful and full of self actualization, so you might as well kick it off in style. Because no one in this city knows how to celebrate Chinese New Year like The Source, we stopped by the Wolfgang Puck staple before it kicks off two full weeks of tasting menus, parties, cooking classes and specials to bring you the perfect recipe for Chinese New Year cocktails with lead bartender Woong Chang.

When creating The Source’s Chinese New Year cocktails, the head bartender weighed his options. His new drinks would need to incorporate Chinese tradition with a modern twist. They would need to compliment a menu on the spicier side be it Executive Chef Scott Drewno’s family-style banquet, his tasting menu, or Sichuan Chef Peter Chang’s takeover. These cocktails would have to be inventive enough that guests would truly feel the urgency of a limited run; sadly, these drinks are only available January 31 to February 13. Woong Chang succeeded on all counts with two festive concoctions–The Clydesdale and his Chinese New Year’s Punch–and he let us go behind the scenes with a recipe or two.

Kung Hei Fat Choy, indeed.

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THE CLYDESDALE

“It’s Chinese New Year, the Year of the Horse,” Chang tells me, “So I looked into horse-themed cocktails.”

He sets up the bar neatly. “Turns out there’s not many horse-themed cocktails out there,” he adds with a laugh.

Though Chang’s search uncovered a dearth of horse cocktails, it did yield The Horse’s Neck, a classic American drink frequently referred to as a Kentucky Gentleman. The cocktail, typically brandy-based, uses ginger ale with a long stem of citrus representing the titular horse’s neck; needless to say, Chang immediately saw the potential and thought that could be a fun fit for The Source.

After playing around with the recipe by adding bubbly and fresh citrus, Chang gave the layered cocktail a dose of Chinese New Year tradition with blood orange, turning the drink a vibrant red–a classic Chinese symbol of good fortune. The end result is a light, bubbly cocktail that would feel just as comfortable in your own home during the hotter months as it does at The Source’s Chinese New Year so grab a shaker; this drink could fast become your new favorite spring/summer cocktail.

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RECIPE

Ingredients
3/4 oz fresh squeezed blood orange juice
1/2 oz lime juice
1/4 fresh squeezed ginger juice
3/4 oz lemongrass-ginger syrup
2 oz Prosecco
1 oz Zacapa

Procedure
1. (Optional) Zest an orange and rim the glass with peel.
2. Shake blood orange juice, lime juice, ginger juice and syrup together.
3. Pour into a tall glass filled with ice.
4. Top with Prosecco.
5. Top with Zacapa.
6. Hang orange peel over the rim of the glass to create illusion of horse’s neck.

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CHINESE NEW YEAR PUNCH

Chang, who feared he’d exhausted all resources in the quest for horse-themed cocktails, decided to try association. What screamed “horses” without its own designated horse cocktail? He racked his brain and eventually thought of The Kentucky Derby, his new inspiration for horse-driven base spirits, which of course pointed him to bourbon.

From there, it was a matter of creativity. Again Chang wanted to include ginger–a highly complimentary flavor for the menu–and red, the symbol of good luck. Change turned to blood orange juice once more but augmented the flavors with orange bitters, adding depth to the whole drink. An unexpected dimension, and possibly the most ingenious, comes by way of Szechuan peppercorn, which rims each punch glass. Peter Chang, whose coming, will be incorporating a lot of Szechuan flavors in his dishes.

For those unfamiliar, Szechuan peppercorn is extremely aromatic with sensory-altering properties that make your tongue go slightly numb. You smell it as you life the glass to your face and, when combined with sugar as it is for Chang’s new punch, you’re hit with a sweet, earthy taste that cuts through the punch’s tartness.

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 RECIPE

Ingredients
4 oz blood orange
1 oz honey ginger syrup
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/4 oz ginger juice
2 oz makers
Dash Reagan’s orange bitters
Splash of soda (goes in at the end once in a glass)

Procedure
1. Combine all ingredients in a punch bowl.
2. Rim each individual cup with a mixture of one part Szechuan peppercorn to two parts sugar.
3. Add ice to glasses.
4. Ladle in the punch.

Chang’s Note: If you want to kick it up a notch, use Prosecco instead of soda or ginger beer instead of ginger.

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