Bacon. Basil. Balsamic Vinegar…the makings for a tasty salad? Think again. These ingredients, and those like them are quickly finding a spot for themselves at some of the finer watering holes throughout Hawaii. Savory ingredients are on trend in libations across the nation, and there are some gems that you can check out right around the corner.
If your palate is anything like mine, you prefer savory over sweet. If it’s a choice between the sweet stuff or the cheese cart, it’s definitely a no brainer…CHEESE please! Personally, I like to combine the savory with a hint of bitterness which keeps the palate wanting. A perfect example of this yin & yang combination can be found at The Tavern in Princeville, Kauai. Roy Yamaguchi’s latest venture that combines bistro fare with local comfort food and the absolute freshest ingredients (they built their own garden right on property to support the restaurant). At the Tavern you will find the Kentucky Savory, a combination of Jim Beam, Campari, fresh muddled basil, lemon, maple syrup, and the kicker….a crispy slice of bacon as the garnish. Take a bite of bacon and a sip of the cocktail. It’s like an appetizer in a glass
Our next cocktail on our savory tour brings us to Sansei Seafood and Sushi Restaurant. Sansei serves up savory with that Asian flair that they do oh so well. Their Ume Rita combines Patron Silver Tequila, Patron Citronge, muddled ume (pickled Japanese plum) and fresh lime with a hint of yuzu. To give it that extra kick, it is served with a Wasabi-sugar rim that gives it just enough heat. The result is a sweet-salty freshly made Margarita with complexity from the yuzu and a wasabi kick. The Ume Rita is perfect with the Hamachi Sashimi.
If you’re in the mood for a steak with your cocktail, Wolfgang’s Steakhouse will give you a healthy dose of their signature Canadian Bacon with their cocktail, Bite the Bulleit. Combining Bonal, which is a slightly bitter aperitif wine with a Mistelle base, and Bulleit Bourbon, the result is a juicy-ness in the front, with a dry finish, tying it all together with the salty-richness of a bite of that luscious Canadian bacon.
And last but definitely not least is the newly opened Japengo at the Hyatt Regency Maui. Their Asian Pear-suasion will definitely have you persuaded to have another. Mingling Absolut Pears with Nigori sake, fresh thai basil and a hint of Midori, it is a tantalizing elixir with a hint of herbaceous-ness that is sure to please.
So if you are in the mood for a little adventure and a lot of flavor, try something new the next time you are perusing the libation list. You might just be pleasantly surprised.
Chandra Lam is the Director of Mixology & Spirits Education, Southern Wine & Spirits of Hawaii.