Inspired by local knowledge, the cocktails at Opium come with a few surprises. Here’s seven of their oriental-inspired cocktails that we highly recommend.
Somewhere along Gerrard Street, a door, fashioned in a deep jade serves as the entrance to Opium – a labyrinth-like speakeasy bar, hidden away from the commotion of Chinatown.
Inside, the vibe is vintage décor meets exotic parlour, set over two floors, with four distinct areas, Apothecary, Attic, Peony and Academy. Apothecary showcases a long bar, painted in an orange-red, Chinese-firecracker hue, housing uniformly-labelled medicine bottles that contain a whole arsenal of alcohol.
On the top floor is Attic. Upon entering, you’re instantly transported back to 1960s Hong Kong, where much of the interior is inspired by the founder’s family home in the former colony.
Peony is Opium’s latest addition. Think of it as a new and exclusive space nestled deep within Opium’s lair – a drinking den and bar within a bar, where those with an adventurous spirit can experiment to the hilt without hassle nor haste.
And, finally, there’s Academy, where all budding mixologists should head to check out a masterclass.
In no particular order, here are seven of Opium’s finest exotic Chinese cocktails to wet your whistle…
Chinatown Spring Punch
A punch that, rather appropriately, packs one hell of a punch. Fresh lychee (synonymous with the Middle Kingdom) is mixed with zesty lemongrass and citrus, champagne, and a strong distilled spirit made from grain that goes by the name HKB Baijiu. This is the only cocktail in London that uses it as an ingredient.
Those of us who listened in history class will know that the Chinese invented gunpowder during the Tang Dynasty in the 9th century. This cocktail – a combination of spiced rum, lemon oil and black tea – comes with Armstrong’s mixture, which generates a small bang to add some drama to the drink.
Served in an Opium cup (a cup especially designed centuries ago to quaff down a drink made with opium), this tequila-based beverage is really smoking. It mixes the unique flavour of cactus with spicy ginger and pimiento, and floral Oolong tea. The team work relentlessly at perfecting this cocktail, hence this is its sixth incarnation.
Sesame Old Fashioned
Sesame is a common Chinese ingredient and this clever take on a classic incorporates sesame-oil-washed spirit. FYI – oil washing is a nifty little process that involves adding melted fat to the alcohol, freezing it, then skimming it off to infuse the liquid with flavour.
The Dragon & The Unicorn
Here’s a cocktail that marries China (the dragon) with Scotland (the unicorn). A Glasgow-blend whisky is mixed with that quintessential Chinese flavour, five spice. Tawny port and the heavenly herbal liqueur Benedictine go into the mix to create a strong offering of mythical proportions.
The House Without A Key
Named after the first Charlie Chan mystery novel, this rum-based long drink includes coconut and pineapple (popular flavours in China) and chai tea. Very fitting, given that the Chinese were the first to drink tea and have grown it for centuries.
The Shanghai Gesture
With a nod to a 1941 film noir of the same title, this long, bourbon-based drink sweetens the palate with pineapple, yet follows it up with a kick, thanks to a tang of peppercorns.
Internationally renowned bartender Esther Cuesta Medina and her team are behind Opium’s extraordinarily imaginative beverages.
To further her understanding of local ingredients and flavour combos, Esther took an extended tour of China. She even cites Lantau Island as her favourite place in the whole world. The result is a menu of heady libations, many containing Far Eastern elements.< Go Back