All words: Brittany Martin — All photos: Shauna Alexander
The Chinese tradition of the Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated each summer on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar, which falls sometime in June to Westerners. The festival includes racing dragon boats (surprise), eating dumplings, and drinking. Ping Pong Dim Sum is already pretty well-known for being in the dumpling business, so this summer they are upping their “double fifth” themed celebrations by debuting a new menu of Asian-inspired summertime cocktails to sip. (They will have boats, too – boats full of beer, specifically – starting on June 25.)
Among the six new cocktails, the Chinese Mule was the biggest hit at a preview party held on the lovely patio of the Dupont Circle location – and for good reason. Perfect for summer and extremely quaffable, the mule has tons of fresh ginger and cilantro muddled together and then topped with spicy ginger beer and vodka. While it might have been improved by using a different spirit to give it a bit more depth, the initial hit of ginger spice is delightful and the cilantro shines through nicely, without being overpowering.
In a somewhat unusual move for a summer menu, four of the six drinks are whiskey-based. According to the restaurant, these were part of a plan to proactively create more “manly” drinks to draw in more male customers to the bars which, apparently are often dominated by women. Of the four, the Earl Grey Julep was this lady-drinker’s favorite of the night – fresh mint at the bottom, a star anise pod on the top, and earl grey tea infused Buffalo Trace bourbon between. The floral tea infusion and aromatic anise are a light, but welcome twist on the classic hot-weather julep. However, the Asian Manhattan made with cherry flavored Red Stag whiskey and plum wine was a sticky, cherry-syrup-sweet drink which tasted more like a melted hard candy than a stiff drink.
The Johnny Treacle is, in name and recipe, a reference to the Ping Pong chain’s English headquarters. A version of the cocktail has been on the London menu for a while and they decided it was time to bring it to the American outposts – but with one change: swapping Johnnie Walker Black for rum used in the original formula. Between the Scotch, orange peel, and Chambord, the drink is a bit rich, making it not necessarily perfect for a hot, humid day outside, but a nice choice if you find yourself under the air conditioning and one which would be a nice choice as fall starts to come around.
On the opposite side of the spectrum from dark and rich, the Tennessee Electric Tea is a something best enjoyed on a hot patio, perhaps after a couple of the Chinese Mules. It is basically an upscale Jack Daniels and Coke with a bit of triple sec, but presented with a bight yellow Szechuan Button bud. Biting the bud causes a tingly, effervescent sensation in the mouth. The idea of the drink is nibble the bud, then sip until the sensation wears off, and repeat. It is a novelty, of course, but it is a whimsical one, and a conversation stimulator.
These new summer drinks will join the popular existing cocktail menu and be available at least though the season and some may stick around longer. For additional information about Ping Pong’s Dragon Boat Festival celebrations, see their Facebook page.