Cocktails Issue 15 Virginia Miller

Feel the wanderlust with these travel-inspired cocktails

Red Frog Speakeasy in Lisbon, Portugal

Bartenders share the top cocktail recipes that transport them to far-away places

By Virginia Miller

We’re all missing world travel. As some places start to open up again, many of us have begun visiting regions open to travellers. Others are still plotting and anticipating upcoming travels, whether for relaxation, inspiration or to reunite (finally) with family and friends. 

Here, three bars and four bar managers we love around the globe share where they’re dreaming of travelling and three of their best gin cocktails inspired by travels to NYC, Japan and France.

Red Frog Speakeasy
Praça da Alegria 66b, 1250-004, Lisbon, Portugal

Look for the doorbell under a red frog marking the door to enter Lisbon cocktail bar pioneer, Red Frog Speakeasy, a space marked by a hidden (behind a bookshelf) bar room, dim lighting, colourful walls, chairs and sofas. Owner and founder Paulo Gomes helms a gifted team who craft both historic cocktails and house creations. Look for traditional Portuguese spirits like local brandies, ginjinha (or ginja) cherry liqueur and green herbal liqueur singeverga, produced by Benedictine monks for more than 500 years.

Paulo Gomes of Red Frog Speakeasy
Paulo Gomes of Red Frog Speakeasy. Credit: Jorge Simão

Paulo has been dreaming of Scotland; in fact, he says he’s already booked a trip to Islay, home of often peat-forward Scotch distillers, for October. “I also dream of heading to Madeira or the Azores [Portuguese islands] with my wife and four daughters,” he says.

Favourite gin bars in the world? Paulo states, “I think the best Martini is at the Connaught bar in London, and the best Gibson cocktail at The Duke of Clarence in Sydney [Australia].” When it comes to gin distilleries, Paulo loves Archie Rose in Sydney (“For the local and native focus,” he clarifies) and Monkey 47 in Germany (“For the distillery’s simplicity and efficiency”). 

With regard to his own Oyster Martini, Paulo explains, “This Martini is inspired by my visit to Maison Ferrand in [France’s] Cognac region where they always serve oysters and gin. It was a must-have.”

Oyster Leaf Martini from Red Frog Speakeasy
Oyster Leaf Martini from Red Frog Speakeasy

Oyster Martini

  • 60ml Oyster Citadelle Gin*
  • 15ml Martini Ambrato Vermouth
  • 5ml Justino’s Sercial Madeira

Stir all the ingredients over ice until icy cold, then pour into a Nick and Nora glass. Garnish with an oyster leaf or a fresh oyster in the shell.

*Oyster Citadelle Gin

  • 700ml Citadelle Gin
  • 4 oysters (oyster meat)

Add the gin and oysters to a ziplock bag and leave to infuse overnight in the fridge. Strain and keep refrigerated.

Bar Beau
61 Withers Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211 USA

Inside Bar Beau
Inside Bar Beau

In Brooklyn’s long, hip Williamsburg neighbourhood, Bar Beau is that ideal all-day spot: quality café/coffee shop by day; by night (and weekend brunch), a restaurant and cocktail bar. The dramatic, wrap-around bar is the kind of spot where bar bites are the likes of scallop corn fritters in a coconut lime dip and dishes run from roasted pork sticky rice to shrimp udon noodles, all accompanying cocktails like Tea with Auntie J: dark rum, pisco, clarified lemon, jasmine tea, falernum and sherry.

Initially moving to NYC to study fashion, Claire Chan honed her vision of just
such an ideal neighbourhood spot over those years of study and working in the industry. In 2018, she opened Bar Beau, following her café, The Elk, in Manhattan’s West Village, which she opened in 2014. As we discuss travel, Claire’s thoughts veer towards family. “I’m looking forward to Hong Kong opening back up,” she says, “so I can visit my father and extended family who live there, especially my grandmother, who is 97!”

Claire Chan outside Bar Beau in Brooklyn
Claire Chan (right) outside Bar Beau in Brooklyn

Dreaming of gin travels, Claire looks to Japan: “I would love to visit Roku distilling one day in Osaka. This is the gin distillery by House of Suntory. We are huge fans of their products and ethos.”

Explaining the inspiration of her featured cocktail, Tonka Truck, Claire explains, “[It was] created as an ode to a favourite childhood drink: Calpis. It’s a Japanese drink with a unique milky flavour. Japanese food culture has always inspired me… The way they utilise ingredients, flavours and textures is like no other.”

The Tonka Truck from Bar Beau
The Tonka Truck from Bar Beau

Tonka Truck

  • 30ml Old Raj Gin
  • 15ml St George Dry Rye Gin
  • 15ml Aalborg Aquavit
  • 15ml lemon juice
  • 15ml house-made Calpis*
  • 7.5ml lemon turmeric cordial (such as Strangeways Lemon Turmeric Cordial)
  • 22.5ml egg white
  • 2 dashes Blended Bitters**

Add all ingredients to a shaker dry, then shake for 10 seconds. Add ice to shaker, then shake for 15 seconds. Strain into a Collins glass over fresh ice and dot with bitters.

*Tonka Truck Calpis

  • 475ml natural Greek (full fat) yoghurt
  • 175ml lemon juice
  • 285g sugar

Stir lemon juice and sugar together until it turns into a rough paste. Add yoghurt and stir until combined. Strain.

**Tonka Truck Bitters Blend

Three parts rhubarb and orange bitters to one part Peychauds and cardamom bitters.

No. 309, Section 4, Xinyi Road, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106

Even as speakeasy bars grew tired in early adopters New York City and San Francisco more than 15 years ago, a proper speakeasy-style bar is still a win for any city. Ounce is just that: a low-key, intimate bar hidden inside another bar (the tiny BS mini). After passing through Ounce’s secret door, one is rewarded with a chill space, knowledgeable bartenders, top-notch cocktails and spirits often not found in Taiwan or even Asia. The bar is run by two managers, Sarah Akromas and Herve “Ash” Hote. Both reflect on where they’re dreaming of travelling as the world opens back up.

At the bar at Ounce Taipei
At the bar at Ounce Taipei

“Since I’ve only been in Asia a few years,” reveals Sarah, “there’s still so much I want to see here. Pre-pandemic I was planning a trip to Myanmar, so I’d like to make that happen. Only within the last 10 years, it has allowed tourism, so it’s still mostly undeveloped and not overrun with tourism (yet). Since it borders several countries, it’s filled with many cultures, rich traditions, a variety of delicious foods… gorgeous nature, ancient ruins, an array of temples and buddhas and centuries of history.”

Ash offers, “Mexico is somewhere I’ve been wanting to visit for a long time – Mexico City, in particular. I’ve always wanted to try traditional pulque [a Mexican alcoholic drink made from the fermented sap of the maguey plant]. It would be an amazing opportunity to learn more about and try many different kinds of agave spirits, experience a different culture and eat some of the best food in the world. I’d love to see more agave spirits in Taiwan, especially mezcal.”

Shifting to gin, Ash states, “My favourite gin distillery is Ransom in Portland, Oregon. I admire all the care they put into making their spirits, from using traditional distillation methods to sourcing local, organic grains and botanicals… Love their Old Tom expression! One distillery I really want to visit is St George in California [San Francisco Bay Area]. St George Terroir Gin is my favourite, but also, I’d like to see a more modern-style distillery for craft gin.”

Sarah Akromas and Ash Hote from Ounce Taipei
Sarah Akromas and Ash Hote from Ounce Taipei

Sarah says, “My favourite gin bar would have to be Bobby Gin in Barcelona. In 2015, I was one of the Bulldog Gin G&T winners and our prize was a trip to Barcelona and Ibiza. Bobby Gin was one of the bars we visited… It has a cosy feel, great gin selection, knowledgeable, energetic staff, awesome cocktails and wonderful tapas.

“One of my favourite gins is The Botanist, so I’ve always wanted to visit Bruichladdich Distillery on Islay… I want to experience everything from foraging botanicals to watching the distillation process.”

Sarah created the featured cocktail, taking inspiration from the Bicycle Thief cocktail from Dutch Kills in NYC. She explains, “I wanted to do a variation incorporating passionfruit, since it’s one of the fruits Taiwan is known for and you can find it here year round, but also to bring a little bit of NYC to Taiwan. 

“My bartender partner in crime, Ash, suggested using the Hapusa Himalayan Dry Gin, which was genius! It is a fairly new gin from India and has lovely spice notes from turmeric and ginger, some bright citrus and plenty of juniper. It stands out in the cocktail but doesn’t overpower it. You taste all the layers of spice, sweet, sour, bitter, fruit and bubbles harmoniously coming together.”

The Catch Me If You Can from Ounce, Taipei
The Catch Me If You Can from Ounce, Taipei

Catch Me If You Can

  • 30ml Hapusa Himalayan Dry Gin
  • 30ml Strawberry Campari*
  • 22.5ml fresh passionfruit juice
  • 15ml strawberry syrup**
  • 7.5ml lemon juice
  • 30ml soda water

In a shaker, add all ingredients (except the soda) and shake with a few ice cubes. Strain into a Collins glass over ice and add the soda. Garnish with one strawberry.

 *Strawberry Campari

  • 400g strawberries
  • 1 bottle (750ml) Campari

Wash and hull the strawberries and slice into quarters. Put into a jar, then add the Campari. Leave to infuse at room temperature for 12 hours, then in a refrigerator for three days or until you reach the desired flavour (this will depend on sweetness and flavour of the strawberries). Fine strain the strawberries out with a mesh strainer. Store in the refrigerator.

**Strawberry Syrup

  • 200g strawberries
  • 200g white sugar
  • 100ml water

In a jar, combine strawberries and sugar then muddle so the strawberries are completely crushed to macerate them. Store in the refrigerator for two to three days, stirring daily until sugar has completely dissolved. Add macerated strawberries and water to a blender then blend. Strain through a fine mesh strainer to remove all pulp and seeds.

Read more features from issue 15 here.

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