British Columbia

Raise a glass to Chinese New Year with these cocktails

Our food columnist has drink options in Vancouver's Chinatown that will have you saying "Cheers!" and "Gung Hay Fat Choy!" in equal measure.

Cocktail culture growing in stature in Chinatown, food columnist says

Dancers perform with a dragon head during the 2015 Chinese New Year parade in Vancouver. Food columnist Gail Johnson says another way to celebrate the occasion is with a cocktail inspired by Chinese culture. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

On The Coast food columnist Gail Johnson says Chinese New Year is a great chance to check out Chinese-inspired cocktails in Vancouver's Chinatown.

She says the dining scene there has changed a lot over the years. Cocktail culture has become huge and some bartenders in the area are drawing on Chinese culture as their inspiration.

Some are doing it with ingredients available in local Chinese grocery stores. Mamie Taylor's on East Georgia, while focused on American comfort food, has a New Year's drink made from oolong tea from the Treasure Green Tea Company called "gunpowder tea."

"The leaves are withered, dried, and rolled into the shape of little pinhead pellets that resemble the explosive mixture," Johnson told On The Coast host Stephen Quinn.

"With that, Mamie Taylor's has come up with a drink called the 'Rum Route.' It starts with a gunpowder tea syrup — so a kind of simple syrup — then that is mixed with Havana Club seven-year-old rum, 23-year Ron Zacapa rum, some freshly squeezed mandarin and lemon juice, as well as a whole egg.

"So, the drink has that really nice foamy cap, and the taste is a blend of smokiness and fruitiness. And a few of the gunpowder tea leaves are sprinkled on top, and they add some texture; they have a little bit of a crunch to them."

Another place to check out is Torafuku on Main Street, serving the "Master Kwan," a drink made with gin and raspberry syrup and incorporating toasted black sesame syrup; and the "Quince Royale:" quince-infused sake mixed with sparkling wine and a lime leaf-bitter mist.

Johnson also recommends Bao Bei on Keefer. They're still working on a special drink for the occasion but also has their "Huan Gshan Flip," blending rye, port, and egg but putting a Chinese spin on it by incorporating black sesame and walnut bitters as well as an almond and gingko nut syrup.

Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year, takes place on Saturday and the Vancouver parade is on Sunday.

With files form CBC Radio One's On The Coast