Ping Pong – Dim Summer Cocktails
In my opinion, oriental flavours lend themselves perfectly to cocktails. Whether it’s the heat of chilli, the unique fragrance of lemongrass, or the exotic burst that comes from dragon fruit or lychee, then imbibing anything with an Asian influence is bound to go down well with me.
Which is why I always enjoy a trip to Ping Pong, the increasingly popular (and rightly so) mecca for those that want to get their fill of delicious steamed dumplings. It’s a favourite place of mine to spend a few hours with friends, catching up over dim sum, but luckily the cocktails are also top quality. So it was with excitement and enthusiasm that I went to check out their new Dim Summer selection, designed to tempt taste-buds with some fresh, new concoctions with distinctly summery influences.
My first port of call for any sort of Ping Pong trip is usually the Lychee Martini – I fell in love with it eight years ago on my first ever visit here, and it remains as good now as then. A beautiful pink hue, the colour of crushed rose petals, it manages to have a powerful kick and yet retain that delicacy, with a hint of lychee taste. So what could drag me away from this trusty drink?
There are three new cocktails to choose from, and since martinis are my favourite, I naturally gravitated towards the Nashi Pussycat, since it’s served short in a coupe glass. It arrived a gorgeous pale yellow, the kind of glowing, almost translucent white-gold you get from a freshly cut pear. Which suited the drink, since it contains Nashi pear – also known as Chinese pear. This distinctive fruit flavour – still crisp, but with that hint of sweetness – carried though the drink, and was combined excellently with jinzu gin infused with yellow gold oolong tea, which contrasted well and gave the cocktail a pleasant grassiness. Chartreuse yellow liqueur tempered it all with herbaceous sweetness, and fresh lemon juice sharpened the final sip. In all, a very successful and tasty cocktail, that reminded me of an image of beautiful golden flowers and pear orchards on a snow-dusted mountain slope in rural Asia.
The second drink to be presented is a bit more frivolous, designed for long lazy afternoons reclining in the sun. The Lychee Spritz has been topped with prosecco to give it a wonderful burst of cheeky bubbles, ideal for adding some occasion and refreshment. The taste of lychee juice is still evident, but it’s the gin that has been infused with organic jade sword green tea that give the drink an element of intrigue. These leaves are known for being bright and refreshing, and are combined with limoncello for a hit of pure sunshine. The whole drink is saved from being too sweet with the clever addition of little specks of black pepper floating on the surface, and means that you’re craving another almost as soon as you’ve finished the first.
The final drink is a wonderful and addictive blend of flavour and fragrance, for those that like something a little stronger and less sweet. Named Lemon Verbena Tonic, it has a base of Gin Mare – a great gin from Barcelona, which carries hints of the Mediterranean in its flavour –blended wonderfully with the citrus freshness of lemon verbena tea, all topped with tonic. Fresh rosemary brings an evocative scent of damp, seductive forests, while olives continue the savoury theme, much like in a martini. The result is a more Mediterranean inspired cocktail, which is reminiscent of afternoons spent appreciating the Spanish sun from the shade of a huge sunhat, looking out across waves breaking on sandy beaches as you sip away on your tonic.
In all, it’s fair to say that there is something for everyone out of the three new additions to the menu. Choosing which one is your favourite might be the only issue – so I heartily recommend trying them all. After all, if you can’t indulge in cocktails during a summer festival, when can you?