"The notion of a durian cocktail is quite daring, to say the least."
I was recently at one of the Tuesday night tastings at Louis 649 learning about sake from experts Chris Johnson and Paul Tanguay. I was fortunate enough to get to talk to Chris afterward about the time he spent in Japan and his career, and conversation drifted to the cocktail list at Bao Noodles, one of the restaurants where he currently works. Chris piqued my interest by mentioning that he created a durian cocktail.
Now, I've never tasted straight-up durian, but I have read enough about it to know that the notion of a durian cocktail is quite daring, to say the least. Durian is a fruit, not widely available fresh in the United States due to its pungent (and many say off-putting) odor. According to Wikipedia, travel and food writer Richard Sterling describes the scent of durian as "...pig-shit, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock." Appetizing, no?
For the base of his cocktail at Bao Noodles, Chris makes durian ice cream with a bit of coconut milk, which dramatically softens the aroma and flavor of the fruit. If I hadn't known specifically that there was any form of durian in the Long Khanh Kocktail, I would have had no idea it was there—there's nothing even approaching the offensive odor described above, and it is, in fact, a tasty drink. The lime zest and mint garnish provide aromatics upon the first sip, and there is a barely perceptible hint of bitterness, quickly dispersed by the pineapple and the creaminess of the ice cream.
Chris also generally has several sake infusions going at any given time, which work their way into sake cocktails. Bao Noodles will likely never become a cocktail destination, but it's certainly worth a visit to try a particularly unique drink with an ingredient that you're unlikely to find in a cocktail anywhere else in the city.
Long Khanh Kocktail
1.5 ounces durian ice cream* 1.5 to 2 ounces Bulldog Gin 0.5 ounce pineapple juice 2 cucumber slices
Muddle the cucumber; add the remaining ingredients to the shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish by grating lime zest atop the drink, and topping with a sprig of mint that you've clapped between your palms to awaken the aromatic oils.
* The durian ice cream used in the cocktail is available directly from Bao Noodles; Chinatown Ice Cream Factory also makes durian ice cream.
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