Food

Chengdu's hottest cocktails—literally

Jun 22, 2018

Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan, tends to be known internationally for two things: pandas and spicy food. But the city is much more than tantalizing spice and adorable bears. There’s a robust nightlife scene and the options range from gritty reggae bars by the river, to sleek cocktail establishments touting uniquely Chinese ingredients.

On the annex of the Temple House Hotel, Jing is a cozy watering hole and lounge for travelers to unwind with a unique boozy drink and some light bites. 

Jing’s comprehensive spirits menu—published and bounded in book form, no less—includes all the regular lineup of liquors. But it really sets itself apart with drinks like peppercorn-infused negronis and Longjing green tea elixirs.  

Here’s a breakdown are three of Jing’s most unique libations:

Sichuan Negroni

Traditionally, a negroni is one part gin, one part campari, and one part Vermouth. But in this iteration, the gin (G’vine Floraison) is infused with osmanthus for six hours and the campari is spiked with numbing red peppercorns. 

Sichuan peppercorn, which is toasted beforehand, adds a potent kick to the otherwise bitter campari. The subtle sweetness of the osmanthus rounds the drink out. 

The ingredients are aged for 50 hours in an oak barrel, which gives it a smooth finish. Lastly, a pinch of dried osmanthus makes for an elegant garnish. 

“A lot of the schools in Chengdu have osmanthus trees,” Leo Lai, the head bartender of Jing, says. “And the sweetness of the flowers pairs well with the floral flavor of the peppercorns.” 

Spicy Lady from Chengdu

There’s a saying that the ladies in Chengdu are feisty and spicy. “Chengdu ladies like to eat spicy stuff,” Lai says. This cocktail is a fun generalization of that (rather sexist) stereotype. 

The concoction is a chili pepper-infused gin with lychee liqueur, lemon juice, and a nut milk. The chili pepper of choice is the facing heaven pepper, named for the unique, vertical way it grows. 

“It’s cold-brewed in the gin for an hour,” Lai says. “The lychee liquor adds a feminine touch and the nut milk is essential because in Chengdu, we always drink nut milk with spicy food.”

Indeed, the nut milk brand Weiyi (唯怡豆奶), with its purple, white, and yellow packaging, has become an iconic fixture of Chengdu’s culinary fabric. The beverage can be found in nearly every hot pot restaurant and is a welcome relief to all the spice.

The way Jing does this cocktail, the milk is vigorously shaken and stirred with the booze and a bit of lemon juice. The acid of the lemon helps creates a delightful frothy effect.

Spring Sip

This is a tea elixir made with green tea from the Zhejiang province of China. The tea comes from Longjing, a small town in the hills surrounding the West Lake, known for its rolling tea plantations and spring flush tea. 

Vodka is used to extract the flavor of the tea. “Vodka does not contaminate the flavor of the Longjing, so we get this really pure extraction,” Lai says. “It’s the best pairing.” 

To top it off, a simple syrup made with the Longjing ensures that the tea flavor remains fresh. “The tea syrup uses the second infusion of the Longjing tea, boiled at 50 to 60 degrees Celsius for six hours,” Lai says.

Elderflower liqueur adds a natural sweetness to the brew. The final drink is garnished with pansy flowers, dried Longjing tea leaves, and served in a gaiwan—a lidded bowl that’s traditionally used to infuse tea.

Jing: No. 81 Bitieshi Street, Jinjiang District, Chengdu, China 610021