Top 10 drinks for Chinese New YearBy Amy Hopkins
China may still be clamping down on extravagant spending, but there is an array of luxurious and fun spirits and cocktails out there to celebrate the Year of the Ram.
Taking over from the horse, the ram is part of a cycle of 12 animals constituting the Chinese Zodiac. However, there has been some argument over whether the start of the new Chinese calendar year actually marks the ram, sheep or goat.
Nevertheless, celebrations will be taking place across the globe as part of the occasion, and a number of drinks brands have released their own limited edition bottlings, in a bid to capitalise on the prolific gifting the New Year brings.
The popularity of Asia spirits is also set to soar across international over the next few days, with a number of establishments creating innovative, Asia-inspired cocktails.
As seven days of unabashed feasting, drinking and celebrating ensues, here are some ideal drinks to welcome the Year of the Ram.
Johnnie Walker Blue Label Year of the Ram
Diageo capitalised on the gifting spirit of Chinese New Year with the launch of Johnnie Walker Blue Label Year of the Ram, said to celebrate Chinese ceramic artistry and tradition through its label artwork.
In reference to the Book of Changes that supposedly signifies a New Year of good fortune, the bottle features three rams standing in “distinguished” positions.
The launch is the second in the brand’s Chinese New Year Series, the first bottling of which celebrated the Year of the Horse.
Sheep Dip Scotch
While not particularly oriental in nature, Spencerfield Spirit’s Sheep Dip Scotch certainly has an apt name to celebrate the New Year.
A blend of 16 different malt whiskies aged between eight and 20 years, the expression is described as having notes of melon, pear and orange with a hint of almonds.
The whisky is named as such as a nod to west country farmers who referred to whisky as “Sheep Dip”, an insecticide used when shearing sheep. In order to avoid paying tax on illicitly produced whisky, these farmers would mark their barrels “SD”.
Shui Jing Fang Red Edition
Targeted towards Asian travellers, Diageo’s baijiu brand Shui Jing Fang launched its Red Edition in celebration of the New Year in 2014.
The travel retail exclusive is packaged in a red bottle – the Chinese colour of good fortune – with a delicate gold design in order to appeal to the affluent jet-setter.
Diageo said the launch was is in response to rising demand for luxury bailiju from global travellers and businessmen.
The Wooden Goat
For the cocktail connoisseur looking to mark the Year of the Ram, top London bar Mr Fogg’s has created the appropriately named Wooden Goat cocktail, a mix of Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve (50ml), lemon juice (15ml), lavender syrup (15ml), lychee juice (35ml), egg white and Tsingtao beer.
To create the mix at home, shake all ingredients apart from the beer, then double strain with cube ice. Top up with beer and to finish with crushed ice. Garnish with a bamboo leave with chrysanthemum flowers and golden edible spray.
While not an obvious choice for Chinese New Year Drinks, Diageo and rapper P Diddy’s Deléon Tequila could be enjoyed as a celebration of the growing popularity of Mexico’s national spirit in China.
Since a ban on 100% agave Tequila was lifted by the Chinese president in 2013, Chinese drinkers have developed a rapacious thirst for the spirit, with producers throwing their weight behind super-premium expressions.
As such, the luxury Deléon Tequila range is ideal for cash-flashing party-goers looking to move into Tequila.
John Walker & Sons King George V
Another release by Johnnie Walker aimed at Chinese New Year gifters is the limited edition, art deco inspired John Walker & Sons King George V blended Scotch whisky.
Made using liquid from distilleries in operation at the time of the British king’s reign in the 1930s, the bottling was launched exclusively in travel retail ahead of Chinese New Year.
The expression is presented in a burgundy bottle designed in an art deco style, in keeping with the period.
The Golden Lantern
Another delicious Asian-inspired cocktail from Mr Fogg’s is the Golden Lantern, a mix of Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve (50ml), lemon juice (20ml), a dash of honey syrup, langon juice and tamarind paste.
To recreate the mix at home, build cocktail straight in the glass, adding all ingredients except the langon juice. Stir it gently with ice and in the and top up with langon. Then add the tamarin paste and golden syrup as ring for garnish.
Martell Premier Voyage
This list wouldn’t be complete without including a luxury Cognac, ideal for gifting over the festivities, and since Martell was recently identified as one of the most imported international spirits into China, the brand seemed an appropriate choice.
For those who really have the cash to splash, Martell Premier Voyage, launched to commemorate the brand’s 300th anniversary, will set you back €10,000.
The blend of 18 eaux-de-vie sourced from winegrowing families whose ancestors supplied Martell in 1735-1742 and is bottled in a crystal decanter complete with minimalist sculpture.
No Chinese New Year celebrations should be without a bottle of baijiu – China’s fiery staple spirit made from sorghum, wheat or rice. Moutai, China’s best-selling baijiu brand, would make a fitting addition to traditional Chinese New Year meal, and is also ideal for those looking to experiment with baijiu for the first time.
There are many different variations of the brand, but one of it’s most popular bottlings is the standard Red expression, costing US$170.
Down to Business
Another London bar which has created a number of delicious cocktails to celebrate the New Year is oriental bar and restaurant Bam-Bou. A firm favourite is the Down to Business cocktail, a mix of Gosling’s Black Seal Rum (40ml), Asahi Black (40ml), honey (1 tbsp), fresh lemon juice (1.5 tbsp), and one grated tonka bean for garnish.
To make the drink at home, add all the ingredients into the coupe glass and then pour the contents from the coupe into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Return the ingredients into the coupe and garnish with the grated tonka bean