Refined flavours in rose-hinted glasses
From its inception in 1963, The Mandarin and its bars were certainly the more elegant epicentre of whatever nightlife Central had to offer. From the swank supper club, the Button, in the 1960s, to the Harbour Room, a cabaret in the 1970s, to the still extant Captain's Bar and The Chinnery, the iconic venues provided a more upscale alternative to the sailor scene in Wan Chai.
The moodily modern M bar is the newest of the hotel's bars. Compared to the positively ancient (by Hong Kong bar and restaurant standards) Captain's Bar and The Chinnery, it's but an infant with a history of a mere five years. Yet the intimate lounge still draws a consistently buzzing and sophisticated crowd, with its scintillating skyline vista from the 25th floor, Cantonese tapas from Man Wah, and its scrupulously executed classic cocktails.
One original cocktail creation, the Rosita, features elements of beloved Mandarin Oriental signatures. The name is a Spanish diminutive of rosa, reflecting two of its key ingredients - the hotel's famous rose petal jam and the base spirit, a peaty tequila reposado. Meaning 'rested' in Spanish, reposado is an aged tequila that has been stored in wooden barrels for a minimum of two months, giving the notorious spirit a smoother taste with a clean medium finish. Mellow on the palate, it's perfect for cocktails (or for sipping on its own).
While tequila can have as sleazy an image as a Wan Chai sailors' bar, aficionados will tell you that an aged tequila can be as sophisticated as a single malt whisky.
The rich, flowery sweetness of the rose petal jam goes well with the almost salty, herbaceous smokiness of the reposado, rounded out with the addition of aromatic house-made bitters made from mandarin orange peel and other spices. Incorporating a further Chinese influence, the juice of mandarins balances out the woody flavours of the tequila with a citrusy tartness. The well-aged reposado also gives the cocktail a pleasurable bouquet that goes with the sweet fragrance of the floral jam.
The Mandarin Cake Shop produces more than 10,000 jars of rose petal jam per year. And while the hotel won't reveal the secret recipe of its famous preserve (it's actually a recipe passed down from the grandmother of executive pastry chef Yves Matthey, who has been with the hotel since 1987), you can always purchase a jar or two to recreate this tantalising cocktail at home.
1 bar spoon rose petal jam
50ml mandarin orange juice
50ml tequila reposado
A dash of house bitters
A dash of rose water
10ml lemon juice
Combine all ingredients in a Boston shaker, add ice and shake.
Strain over fresh ice.
Garnish with three pieces of tea rose and serve in a rocks glass.