How to Take Your Old Fashioned to Thailand

At New York’s new Fish Cheeks, the Thai seafood-focused menu is complemented by a cocktail list by Employee’s Only principal bartender Dev Johnson.

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Oct 27 2016, 4:00pm

fish-cheeks-opened-in-bowery-this-september

Fish Cheeks opened in the Bowery in September. All photos by the author.

The flavors of Thailand are championed in restaurants all the time, and there's no shortage of incredible Thai eats out there. But Thai-inspired cocktails? Not so much.

At New York's new Fish Cheeks, the Thai seafood-focused menu by brothers Chat and Ohm Suansilphong is complemented by a cocktail list by Employee's Only principal bartender Dev Johnson.

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The Mango Sticky Rice with Mekhong rum, Bénédictine, and house-made rice milk.

"First, I researched traditional Thai flavors that I thought may work in cocktails," Johnson said of developing the beverage program. "Then [I] expanded my search to Southeast Asian flavors in general. It was challenging in the sense that I started working with flavors of which I was relatively unfamiliar."

RECIPE: Mango Sticky Rice Cocktail

There are things on the menu you'd expect, like a creamy mango drink—which is fortunately less Cheesecake Factory and more balanced—and there are things that you might not. Many of the cocktails are spirit-forward like the Thai Old Fashioned with makrut lime, bitters, and Mekhong, a Thai cane spirit that's called a whiskey but actually more of a rum.

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The Thai Old Fashioned with Mekhong rum, a Thai "whiskey" that's actually more of a rum.

Johnson had fun playing with the spirit's distinct flavor. "I wanted a boozy cocktail using Mekhong. I also wanted to translate the Old Fashioned into something that fit the region," he said, "so I decided to replace one part of the traditional citrus lemon peel) with the citrus of the [makrut] lime leaf while keeping the orange peel for the nose. It's a nice off center balance to the traditional Old Fashioned."

RECIPE: Thai Old Fashioned