Traditional Chinese Medicine gets an update with cocktails and a fresh new attitude
TCM COCKTAILS, ANYONE?
Toast to good health with herb-infused cocktails at speakeasy, The Library, where a collaboration with Eu Yan Sang is making TCM cool again. Harper’s BAZAAR speaks to Adam Bursik, general manager of The Library, and Serene Seow, managing director of Eu Yan Sang Singapore
How is Eu Yan Sang keeping TCM alive today?
Serene Seow (SS): Eu Yan Sang is committed to keeping the ancient wisdom of TCM alive for future generations through innovation and fresh ideas. Through this collaboration with The Library, we are introducing a new pop-up that brings traditional herbs to life—a key feature of the experience is a medicine chest showcasing 49 different herbs, categorised into different “energy groups”—cool, neutral and warm—alongside educational posters and an interactive app.
How are TCM and mixology connected?
SS: Integrating traditional herbal ingredients with alcohol, such as rice wine, white spirits or beer, has been a long-standing tradition to preserve herbs and enhance their health properties.
Adam Bursik (AB): As a concept, it’s definitely very connected to the F&B industry because we’re using quite a number of herbs and spices in our cocktails. There’s the blending of different flavours to perfection, or for health benefits. It might be difficult to see the health benefits of alcohol, but in small portions, it can be beneficial.
What are your top three traditional Chinese ingredients to work with?
AB: Ginseng. To my palate, this ingredient is very unique. It’s very earthy, almost dusty, but very good to combine with some refreshing citrus flavours. Hawthorn, mostly dehydrated, for infusing. It has a lot of sourness, which you cannot get from other similar fruits. Five-spice—there’s a variety of spices in it for flavouring alcohol. Not many bars are using Sichuan pepper and fennel in their infusions, and to combine these almost-savoury flavours with citrus creates rounder and fuller flavours.
What is the one cocktail you’d recommend a TCM purist to try?
AB: Definitely Rice & Shine. It’s a very herbal and refreshing cocktail, full of flavours of ginger, ginseng, honey and chrysanthemum, combined with gin and fresh lime. A one-of-a-kind cocktail.
What was your most unexpected flavour discovery from this process?
AB: Hawthorn was definitely one of the biggest surprises for me the first time, as it has a very fruity and sour taste. For a few drinks that I created with Hawthorn-infused Rum, I didn’t have to use any citrus to bring out the fresh flavours, because of the sourness of the berry.