One of Sylvain's best-selling cocktails was born from a spirited competition, if you will, between Murf Reeves and an unnamed bartender, then working at an also-unnamed bar. "I wanted to outdo him," says Murf, who came up with a fantastic mingling of Asian fl avors that must have certainly outshone the competition.
His base spirit here is low-proof soju, a distillate of barley and koji, a fermenting agent made from steamed rice that's cultivated with mold spores; it brings subtle sugars and a wonderfully chewy texture to soju (and it's also a key component in sake).
Ty Ku distills its koji with barley, but other producers add anything from sweet potatoes to dates. The end result, soju, is mostly a neutral spirit, though it's slightly sweeter than vodka.
At Sylvain, Murf pairs it with Lazzaroni amaretto, a liqueur that's infused with fragrant amaretti made from apricot kernels and egg whites. The liqueur "smells like biscotti," Murf says, and carries a delicate fruit (as well as softly bitter almond) fl avor.
Rounding out this Asian martini are a ripe, fl oral apricot liqueur and ginger simple syrup, which touches off a warm spiciness. I drank it late at night, and then again at brunch, and loved it equally for its approachable brightness and balance.
One thing about the soju, which is traditionally made in Korea: the homegrown variant in Japan is called shochu. So why would Japanese-based Ty Ku name categorize its spirit by a Korean name?
In New York and California, soju is exempt from hard liquor licenses, which allows more restaurants to sell it like beer or wine, and gives it the edge over shochu, much as it helped Murf take down his competition.
Written by Murf Reeves, courtesy of Sylvain
1.5 oz. Ty Ku soju
.75 oz. lemon juice
.75 oz. Rothman & Winter apricot liqueur
2 tsp housemade ginger simple syrup
2 tsp Lazzaroni amaretto
Build in a shaker with ice; shake and strain into a lowball glass loaded with two large ice cubes. Serves 1.