A taste of life
One of the best ways of preserving your heritage is to modernise it. It's taken on board and appreciated by a new generation, while keeping the reassuring memories of the past alive - this is what the Taste of Life cocktail aspires to.
The idea comes from kumquats, source of a traditional Hong Kong remedy. Kumquats are citrus fruits that look like small oranges and not what you'd usually find in a cocktail, but this is Hong Kong and they have a real significance in the city.
In Hong Kong it's a custom to preserve kumquats in salt or sugar. A batch of the fruit is usually covered in salt inside a glass jar. A jar of preserved kumquats can last for years. Over time, all the juice from the fruit is diffused into the salt. The fruit becomes shrunken, wrinkled and brown, and the salt combines with the juice as a dark brown brine.
Traditionally, the kumquat compote is then mixed with hot water to make a remedy for sore throats and flu. John Ng, the mixologist at the MO Bar in the Landmark Mandarin Oriental in Central, has updated the concept by creating the Taste of Life.
'When I had a cold at home my parents would give me kumquat preserve mixed with hot water,' he says. 'The kumquat we have has been stored since 1989. It was very comforting, so I wanted to replicate it in a cocktail.'
When kumquats are not in season, oranges can be used without taking anything away from the flavour. The cocktail is only 30 per cent strong, but that's the beauty of it. Orange is the predominant flavour, and a combination of sweet, sour, bitter and salt flavours makes it stand out even more. Ng says the idea for the cocktail came to him at Lunar New Year. 'Kumquats are everywhere in Hong Kong at that time of year and, because of the relationship we have with the fruit, I thought it would be good to try and produce this in a cocktail.'
Ng has certainly achieved his aim and it's so easy to drink that you'll be on your third or fourth before you know it. There is also a reason why he called it the Taste of Life.
'It's sweet, sour and bitter - just as life is at times for us,' he says.
Taste of Life
25ml Pimm's No 1
25ml Bols Dry Orange
12.5ml honey syrup
25ml lemon juice
2 slices orange (kumquats in season)
Put all ingredients into a cocktail shaker and shake hard until mixed together. Put some ice cubes into a glass and then strain the cocktail into the glass.