Matthew Kelly / Supercall

Entertaining
6 Lychee Cocktails for Lychee Nuts

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Sometime after the French Martini opened the floodgates to the creations of other sweet Martinis, the lychee fruit found its way from Chinatown groceries into the cocktail bar, where it evoked “exotic” Eastern flavors in the Lychee Martini. The fruit has been prized in Chinese culture for thousands of years and remained a dietary staple in multiple immigrant communities in the States way too long to be deemed a fad, but the lychee is finally having its moment in the mainstream sun, with more and more average Joe’s perking up to the rosy-skinned fruit’s wonderful flavor. Described as a cross between a grape, rose, watermelon and pear, lychee’s distinctive taste is difficult to resist—and it can do way more in cocktails than simply sweeten up vodka. Here, six cocktails that use lychee in all sorts of ways.

Matthew Kelly / Supercall
The Lychee Martini is partly to thank for Americans’ growing familiarity with the fruit, with many “discovering” their first lychee resting tranquilly at the bottom of a coupe. The drink, sweetened with syrup straight from a can of lychees, unequivocally falls into the “sweet ‘tini family,” but the fruit garnish’s own slightly tart, floral bite makes for a palate-cleansing chaser after you’ve knocked back the cocktail.

The Essentials

Vodka
Lychee syrup
Vermouth
MATTHEW KELLY / SUPERCALL
It’s hard to find a fruity spirit that lychee doesn’t complement. Lychee never dominates over a drink’s flavor profile when matched with serious boozy power; it wraps all other flavors in a blanket of floral milky goodness. In this cocktail from GreenRiver in Chicago, the red fruit intertwines seamlessly with apple, grape and walnut notes of young brandy, offering a bright base for a happy-go-lucky cocktail with surprising depth.

The Essentials

Manzanilla Sherry
Pink Port
Lychee Syrup
MATTHEW KELLY / SUPERCALL

The classic Caipirinha is a study in citrus and young boozy funk, a Cachaça Sour that elevates the young grape spirit’s sweet-tart, grassy profile. But if that drink has come to represent the nation of Brazil in drinker’s minds, this imperial, deluxe edition is like the country’s full-on boozy colonization of American palates. Ginger engages the spicy side of cachaça and the savory side of tarragon, but it’s the muddled lychee nuts that hold everything together in fruity harmony and give the cocktail an undeniable allure.

The Essentials

Cachaça
Ginger Liqueur
Half a Fresh Lime
MATTHEW KELLY / SUPERCALL

Even as East Asian restaurant E.P.&L.P. stretches the boundaries of regional flavors and visitor expectations, it draws on cohesive elements. For example, this striking grayscale cocktail—which augments a Gin Sour with tropical lychee liqueur Lichi-Li and spiced amaro—gets its inky black dye from coconut charcoal powder. The sweet lychee flavor fits in perfectly in this venturesome drink.

The Essentials

Gin
Lychee Liqueur
coconut charcoal
MATTHEW KELLY / SUPERCALL

The lychee fruit thrives in the humid Caribbean climate, and it takes to the heady sweetness of dark rum from the islands equally well. Along with mango, lemon juice and orange liqueur, a heap of lychee juice is mixed with red wine in this tropical Sangria. And to complete the Sangria’s tropical transformation, chopped raw lychee and pineapple replace the usual fruit bobbing in the red punch.

The Essentials

Red WIne
Lychee Juice
Rum
MATTHEW KELLY / SUPERCALL

While not a true Lychee cocktail, this boozy take on bubble tea utilizes tapioca pearls soaked in longan honey to add a subtle sweet-tart, almost tutti-frutti note to the squishy blobs. Since longan is a relative of the slightly sweeter lychee, swapping in lychee honey will give the cocktail a similarly bright fruity undertone while letting you capitalize on all that lychee hype.   

The Essentials

Del Maguey Mezcal Vida
Teazone Taro Powder
Tapioca balls

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