So Mixology Monday has suddenly arrived again, and I am completely unprepared. The month is hosted by Anita at Morels and Musings and the theme is fruit liqueurs. I was thinking of making something with crème de cassis, but then my eye fell upon my bottle of Kuai Fei lychee liqueur. Lychee liqueur deserves a little more respect than it gets, so why not give it an outing? I realized I had a grapefruit in the fridge. Then I remembered there was a Japanese (?) drink I had been meaning to write up for a while, the China Blue.
I am not certain about the origins of this drink. I suspect it is originally Japanese. The balancing of a bitter element (grapefruit) against a sweet element (lychee) seems Japanese to me. The name “China Blue” applied to an exotic blue drink also only makes sense if the drink originates outside of China. Japan is perhaps the only Asian country to have a developed cocktail culture. Finally, the drink seems relatively unknown in the west but common in Asia, which would suggest an Asian (likely Japanese?) origin. Of course I may be completely wrong. Taiwanese have told me this drink is named after the Taiwanese band of the same name – led by the famous Taiwanese rocker Wu Bai (??). At any rate this is a popular drink in Taiwan (in so much as any cocktail is popular there), and a staple of Japanese bars in both Taiwan and China.
2 oz lychee liqueur
1 teaspoon Blue Curacao
Build on rocks in a highball glass. Drop the curacao into the drink to create a blue cloud effect . Pouring the curacao down the side of a straw, spoon, chopstick, or similar will help it travel directly to the bottom of the drink. You can also draw the liqueur out of the bottle by capping your finger over the end of a straw and drop it directly into the bottom of the drink. Pale colored grapefruit juice is best to maximize the blue cloud effect. My photo did not come out very well. I swear the drink was bluer than it appears
If you want a less sweet drink you can also make this with 1 oz lychee liqueur and 1 oz vodka – or 3 parts lychee to 1 part vodka. I tend to go down the latter route myself.
This one is not going to set the cocktail world on fire, but then again it is not bad. The grapefruit stops it tasting like too much of a sugar bomb; there is plenty of sugar but the overall impression is still bitter sweet rather than sweet. The lychee contributes a strong scent that is interesting and refreshing. The curacao makes it fun to throw together and admire.
Drinks like this have a place. There is a certain type of girl who will feel extremely short changed if she gets invited out for a cocktail and doesn’t receive a blue drink. Having got the blue drink out of the way she might feel included to venture further and try something else – perhaps a faintly violet Aviation. Hell, plenty of guys feel the same about blue drinks. Blue drinks are simply exotic and cool, even if they do not always taste very good. The China Blue is a good choice for those occasions when only blue will do. It is suitably exotic looking, easy to drink, and has enough challenging bitterness to make a good stepping stone to something more complex – and a good fall back if that more ‘sophisticated’ drink doesn’t work out.
Incidentally, the illustrious London chef Alexis Soyer marketed a blue soft drink in the mid 19th century. The drink, called Soyer’s Nectar, was hugely popular. The fact that soft drinks were considered de facto health drinks at the time helped its popularity further. Soyer’s Nectar even saw use as a cocktail ingredient during the Great Exhibition of 1851. The Soyer’s Nectar Cobbler was rather popular, being simultaneously nutritious, boozy, and blue. If blue drinks were good enough for Alexis Soyer then critics of the genre, before expressing their views, should consider whether they are willing to enter a toe to toe culinary debate with an impassioned Frenchman. Personally I’d just enjoy the blue drink.