Mixing it Up

Article by Xianease

We at Xianease are partial to a good drink, so when our friends at Isola del Nord invited us over to their Gaoxin restaurant for a bartending exhibition, we jumped at the opportunity. After watching three of China’s best bartenders demonstrate their skills, we were able to get a quick word in with them to ask about their favorite drinks, the state of mixology in China and what the hell the deal is with baijiu.

From: Beijing
Bar: D-Lounge
Bartending for: 6 years
Favorite drink: Negroni
On cocktails in China: “The most popular city for cocktails is Shanghai, but they’re also in Beijing, Shenzhen, Chengdu, Chongqing…I think a long time ago we used to just drink some Long Island Iced Tea, Margarita, Cosmopolitan; they’re not great drinks—they’re very normal. Just alcohol with some juice. Right now we make all different styles…it’s more interesting to people who want to try something different. Speakeasy bars too, maybe could be popular in places like Xi’an or Guangzhou.”
What about baijiu?: “If I have to use baijiu, I can’t mix a lot of things in with that alcohol. I think maybe I would have to use some spice…maybe mix it half baijiu, half rum, something like that, to change baijiu’s strong taste. But for baijiu I’m not so professional at mixing with it; it’s too difficult.”

From: Shanghai
Bar: Homemade
Bartending for: 8.5 years
Favorite drink: Old Fashioned
On cocktails in China: “In my hometown, cocktail bars became popular about five years ago. Right now, people’s habits are to go to a bar and enjoy a drink. I think cocktails are also becoming more popular because more women are going to bars and cocktails are tasty and fashionable.”
What about baijiu?: “I’ve used baijiu to make cocktails before. I think if I have to make a baijiu cocktail, I’ll try to mix some strong flavors like rosemary or some strong alcohol to cover the baijiu, or just make baijiu to be the flavor.”

From: Shanghai
Bar: Fabbri
Bartending for: 10 years
Favorite drink: “Kissing the Duck”
(he tells us it’s dry vermouth,
gin and cherry brandy)
On cocktails in China: “All the customers, they just know things like Mojito, or Long Island Iced Tea, so they don’t know the other cocktails. My job is to tell the customer more cocktails. I think they like sweet and sour flavors in their cocktails.”
What about baijiu?: “I think I don’t want to use baijiu! [laughs] The flavor is too strong, I would rather use things like elderflower wine. I won a competition two years ago where they made me make a Kangaroo, so I used vodka with elderflower wine to make the cocktail. I call it the Shanghai Kangaroo.”