The lovely people at San Francisco’s Bong Su (upscale Vietnamese, South of Market) hosted a small gathering to show off their new cocktail menu, devised with the exotic Southeast Asian food menu in mind. We rolled through all five unique concoctions (each paired with an appetizer to match). All in all, very good libations, but some easy favorites emerged.
No question, the Mekong Martini (pictured, recipe at end of post) was my personal best (and also the first drink out of the gate). While not really “challenging,” the blend of lychee vodka and mango nectar, plus half a lime and 1/2 oz. of Pandan syrup (a house-made syrup from aromatic Pandan leaf) was a light and summery drink that wouldn’t be out of place on the beach in Hawaii. A mound of black tea tapioca balls in the base of the glass add to the cool factor of the drink, but fishing them out to eat is more chore than joy.
The Hibiscus Bud, a fiery red drink topped with an edible hibiscus flower,
was the most striking item on the menu, but it isn’t the Hurricane wannabe you’re probably expecting. A blend of Maker’s Mark, pear eau de vie, various flavored syrups, and bitters, this is a Manhattan for the beachcomber in you, though it was a little overdone for my purist Manhattan tastes.
I wasn’t a huge fan of the Cherimoya Sidecar, a typical cognac and lemon mixture with the addition of Creole Shrubb orange-flavored rum and a tablespoon of cherimoya puree (cherimoya is a green fruit that looks a bit like an artichoke with white flesh inside the skin). I can’t put my finger quite on what I didn’t love about the drink, but the orange of the Creole Shrubb was just too overpowering, even beating down the lemon in the drink.
The Saigon Sun is a nice cocktail with a little bit of a surprise. The mango on the rim cues you to the mango puree inside, and the mix of rum, peach liqueur, and lime all work perfectly well here. The surprise is the addition of coconut water, which gives the drink a nice coconutty aftertaste without overpowering the other elements. This is a good one to pair with a seafood appetizer (we had it with a calamari dish).
Finally we tried the Golden Dragon (pictured), which matches a quinoa-based vodka with a touch of Creole Shrubb, lime, tea-infused syrup, and honey. Everything here works well, though you won’t notice any tea flavor. The end result is something like a tablespoon of orange-blossom honey turned into a cocktail. But it’s not too sweet. Everything here works well in harmony. Another fine cocktail!
The new cocktails are being served now. Check them out at bongsu.com!
1 1/2 oz. Kai Lychee vodka
2 oz. mango nectar
1/2 oz. Pandan syrup
1/2 fresh lime, juiced
black tea tapioca balls to garnish
Shaken and served up in a cocktail glass.
Sub simple syrup for the Pandan and forget the tapioca and you can easily make this one at home.