Sichuan Chocolate Martini
Escape the chaos of Wyndham Street by walking up to +852 at the higher-altitude, peaceful Glenealy, where the bar previously known as Hush has been taken over by entertaining and knowledgeable mixologists Alexandre Chatte and Timothy Ching.
These are early days; so far just a few changes have been made to the decor. What has changed, however, is the cocktail menu. Chatte and Ching have clearly had fun here, letting their inner explorers out, sourcing ingredients from around the world. Check out the chalkboard and you'll see a list of classics - Bellini, Old Fashioned, mojito, daiquiri - but with a twist, unexpected ingredients such as French cherries and Japanese sparkling sake transforming well-known drinks into something new.
Ching (with a pedigree that includes Zuma, the old Armani bar, Mint and Entourage) talked me through the Sichuan Chocolate Martini (HK$90), which is based around those addictive numbing peppers from the Chinese province, crushed into 70 per cent dark chocolate, then mixed with thyme-infused vodka and a little raw cane sugar.
Although they're called peppers, the corns are from the citrus family, and it's the hydroxy-alpha-sanshool (try saying that when your tongue's numb) content that's responsible for the tingling properties that are so moreish in hot pot and other regional dishes. Harold McGee, the writer on the chemistry of cooking who is often linked to the molecular gastronomy movement, likens the confusing taste to touching a nine-volt battery with your tongue.
This particular liquid nine-volt battery has a beautifully rich, adult flavour due to the bitterness of the chocolate; the peppers, which are so subtle that you're craving more; and the herby flavour of the thyme also adding a subtle, almost savoury depth. The aftertaste of spiciness is a hint until you bite on the garnish of peppercorns in chocolate. Then the sting in the tail - the full effect bursting through, leaving you with that addictive salty-spicy-tingling-watering 'nine-volt battery' mouth.
It's a tough act to follow, so you'd be best off trying other cocktails, such as the Yuzu Sake Mojito (HK$100), Gingerbread Bellini (HK$90) or Orange Plum Daiquiri (HK$95) beforehand.
50ml Sichuan chocolate sauce
20ml thyme-infused vodka
2 bar spoons raw cane sugar
Pour into a chilled martini glass and garnish with chocolate-coated Sichuan peppercorns