It's easy to get carried away spending at least 80 RMB for a fancy cocktail at overpriced "Western" bars. There can also be concerns about the authenticity of cheap alcohol at your local watering hole. So, why not drink at home for a change? Sitting back with a few cocktails with friends on a hot summer night is the perfect way to spend an evening melting the stresses of China away. Though thumping clubs or Western-style pubs and bars certainly have their appeal, hosting a small get-together at home can be just as fun-- and cheaper, to boot.
Where to shop
Though China might not be home to a huge variety of artisanal or specialty liquors, there are plenty of basic drinks that can be found at most larger grocery stores to help start your home bar. Standard liquors such as Vodka, Rum, Gin, Tequila, sake and wines can be found at virtually any grocery store chain such as Park'n'Shop, Carrefour, Jusco, or Taste, and prices from store to store do not vary significantly. These stores also carry liqueurs such as Bailey's and Kahlua, and flavoured Absolut vodkas (Pear and Citron being the most common) can be found as well. For cheaper finds (about an average of 10 RMB cheaper per bottle), search for the bulk warehouse stores in your area, such as Metro, Walmart, or Sam's club. The variety of booze at these bulk stores tend to be greater, as well, and specialty liquors such as Pimms, Malibu, or Sweet and Dry Vermouths can also be found here.
Though a standard gin and tonic can cure the pain of a bad day, we've browsed the stores and markets of China in search of common ingredients to bring you six cocktail recipes with an authentically Chinese twist. Make sure to stock your fridge with soda waters and tonic waters (which can be found at any grocery store or 7-11), and visit your local wet market for the fruits and garnishes listed in the recipes below. In these recipes, the toughest ingredient to find might very well be enough ice to satiate your thirsty guests!
1) Mangosteen Margarita
Mangosteens are prevalent throughout Asia in the hot summer months. Sold on streets and in wet markets, they add a quintessential tropical flavour to an otherwise traditional margarita. Margaritas are an easy, fast, and tasty party-enabler that can mask the often stringent tastes of cheaper tequilas.
What you'll need: Tequila (gold or white), lots of limes, mangosteen (peeled and pitted), simple syrup, Cointreau or triple sec (optional).
Cost of alcohol: An average bottle of tequila such as Jose Cuervo Gold will set you back about 110 RMB.
What to do: In a small bowl, mash the pulp of 6-8 mangosteens. In a pitcher, combine 2 cups tequila, ¾ cups fresh lime juice, mashed mangosteen pulp and juices, ½ cup Cointreau or triple sec, ¼ cup simple syrup*, and 1 cup water. Serve with plenty of ice.
*To make simple syrup, heat 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar until boiling. Turn down heat and allow to simmer for five minutes. Turn off heat and cool completely, then store in a clean jar in the refrigerator. Keeps for 1-2 months.
2) Not-so-Dark and Stormy
Traditionally, the dark and stormy calls for a high-quality, spicy and dark rum. In China though, we've all learned not to be so picky. Even with average-quality rum, this drink can be jazzed up with homemade ginger syrup. Ahhh, ginger- finally something easily found throughout China.
What you'll need: Rum, Ginger syrup, soda water, lime.
Cost of alcohol: A bottle of Captain Morgan's Rum usually costs 115-120 RMB.
What to do: For your dark and stormy, combine 2 shots of rum, ½ shot of ginger syrup**, and 1 squeeze of fresh lime juice in a glass filled with ice. Top with seltzer water. Garnish with a lime.
**For ginger syrup, peel and slice one large knob of ginger. Heat 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar until boiling, then reduce to low and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Strain. Ginger syrup should keep in the fridge for about a month.
3) Lychee Mojito
Remember when the mojito cocktail made a splash in bars throughout the UK and the states years ago? Now you can have the same boozy minty pleasure at home, with an added Asian twist.
What you'll need: Rum, mint, fresh lychees (peeled and pitted), sugar, lime, simple syrup (see recipe above), and soda water.
Cost of alcohol: An average bottle of rum such as Bacardi's will cost around 125 RMB. Many general grocery stores in China only have spiced rum, such as Captain Morgan's, so you many have to do a bit more searching here.
What to do: Pick off 8-10 mint leaves and place in a tall glass with 2-3 lime wedges, 3 lychees (pitted), and 1 tsp. granulated or refined sugar. Mash well. Pour in 2 shots rum along with ½ shot of simple syrup and mix, then and add ice. Fill to the top of the glass with soda water and garnish with a mint sprig and another lychee.
4) Pimm's Dragon Cup
Pimm's is the perfect summer drink. A pitcher or two of Pimm's Dragon Cup would be perfect for watching the upcoming Dragon Boat races this weekend.
What you'll need: Pimm's No. 1, oranges, lemons, dragon fruit (or dragon fruit juice), ginger and cucumbers are a must. Peaches, strawberries, kiwi, mint, and Asian honey melons are additional options.
Cost of alcohol: A bottle of Pimm's, which can be found at stores such as Metro or Sam's Club, will set you back about 120 RMB
What to do: Juice a couple oranges and lemons, about enough to have 1 cup of citrus-y liquid. Pour in a large jug or pitcher, and add 2 cups Pimm's and 1 cup simple syrup. Slice half a dragon fruit, 1 small cucumber, and one small knob of ginger (along with any other additional fruits) into 8-10cm long slices and add to the pitcher. Set in the refrigerator to cool for 2 hours. To serve, pour into a tumbler filled with ice and top off with soda water. Garnish with liquor-soaked fruit.
Alternatively, instead of slicing dragon fruit, stores such as Jusco or Taste sometimes sell fresh dragon fruit juice. Add ½ cup juice in place of chopped dragon fruit.
5) Great Wall Sangria
Most domestic wines are cheap, intended to be mixed with other beverages. In fact, the Chinese like to mix Coke with their white wines and Sprite with their red wines. In this recipe, the addition of fruits and some sweetener can mask the flavour of an otherwise mediocre (at best) wine, and will be just a smidge classier than pouring Sprite into your wine glass.
What you'll need: Domestic wine such as Great Wall, Brandy or Cognac (Hennessey is prevalent and can be found in any store that sells liquor in China), lemons, oranges, orange liqueur (triple sec), sugar, and sparkling water. Diced fruits, such as pears, apples, peaches, oranges, and grapes.
Cost of alcohol: An average bottle of Great Wall Wine will be no more than 50 RMB.
What to do: Combine 1 bottle of red wine, ¼ cup brandy, ¼ cup orange liqueur, 2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice, 2 Tbsp. fresh orange juice, and ¼ cup sugar into a large pitcher or punch bowl. Add 1-2 cups chopped fruits and chill for 2 hours. When ready to serve, add 1 bottle (750mL) sparkling water.
6) Plum Wine Cooler
Frankly, one of my proudest moments in China has been inventing this beer cocktail. Don't knock it until you try it.
What you'll need: Plum Wine, Chinese beer (Tiger, Tsingtao, or Harbin – cheap beer is a must)
Cost of alcohol: An average bottle of Tsingtao beer (750mL) will cost around 3-8 RMB. The price of a bottle of plum wine varies from store to store (more than any of the other alcohols), and can be anywhere between 40-80 RMB. The cost at Japanese-owned chains tends to be lower.
What to do: Mix equal parts plum wine and beer over a tumbler filled with ice. Drink. Enjoy.
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Keywords: do it yourself cocktails China cocktail recipes cost of alcohol China
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