I made a special infusion for my in-laws and the Chinese New Year. Every year they drink this Chinese baijo which tastes like kerosene, so this year I made a bourbon infusion. I have made it for them before and they really like it, and it gets me out of having to drink the kerosene. This batch was made with green apples, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg and vanilla beans. Infused into what we hope is real (not fake) Wild Turkey.
In what almost seems a lifetime ago I was lucky enough to meet Li Lei who owned True North Cabin in the Jianwai Soho area. He had a small shop at the bottom of Building 17 where he kept some wonderful fresh water aquariums. It was there that I helped him create a cocktail menu and develop a fusion liquor program. I was able to go back and see my friend and wow - times have changed in only 20 months. Now he has an extensive collection of Japanese whiskey. Like everything else, he was obsessed with serving it perfectly. So now the tables were turned and he taught me much about not only the Japanese whiskey, but also some very interesting methods for serving ice.
For my birthday he poured me some Yamazaki 18 year, and it was unlike anything else I have ever tried.
If you want to visit somewhere off the beaten path in Beijing where you can be treated well by a very smart host, True North Cabin, Building 17, Jianwai SOHO is the place to try. Li Lei is a great guy and he is fluent in Chinese, English and Japanese. The cocktails are very good, and the company can't be beat.
Unfortunately I really wasn't blogging much while in Beijing this last year. Things were very busy with setting up the nano brewery and helping Li Lei over at True North Cabin. There was just a lot learned and I wish I would have posted more. But now - I am taking a lot of that experience and polishing it up back home in the U.S.
We developed a really fantastic cocktail menu at True North Cabin while learning some of the hard lessons that come in the F&B industry in China. One of the things we were developing was a whole series of infusions. I never got the time to explore bitters while I was there, and I decided it would be best to wait until coming back home anyway. Mainly because of the access and guaranteed quality of the ingredients necessary to really work with bitters. But now I am finally getting some things put together, taking some pictures and really ironing out the recipes.
I wanted to build a strong line of traditional bitters, but also try some things using China's own special version of firewater. Some of their baijou
is incredibly high proof. For example the product I am using to create the grapefruit bitters is Heng Shui Lao Bai Gan
and clocks in at 67% alcohol... or approximately 130 proof. The key is to find something that will play off the flavor, and I am trying a couple of things with this run. One is the coffee/hazelnut/orange bitters, and the other is this grapefruit bitters.
All of these will sit for two weeks or more, and then processed through a second phase to concentrate the flavor. One I have some results I will post both the English and Chinese versions of my recipes on the site.