Lychee fruit in drinks has been around for a while and it still seems to be a good ingredient to use in a cocktail, not the “flash in the pan” most people thought it would be. The Lychee Martini is a little passe, just because it isn’t very complex. Sure, it was interesting because so many North Americans haven’t tried lychee’s (sometimes spelled litchi). I once knew a girl who hated lychee’s because it reminded her of eating an eyeball. Sounds like the makings of a good Halloween cocktail. Anyway, with the lychee martini big bang opening the way for bars to regularly stock lychee juice or liqueur, it provides another useful ingredient to create some unique cocktails.
The inspiration for working with lychee fruit juice came from my recent consumption of icewine. If you’ve ever tried icewine you may have noticed that the aromas are very tropical in nature. In the Inniskillin icewine I was sampling, there were scents of mango, pineapple, papaya and especially lychee fruit. This combination of flavours with the high acidity in the icewine made for a great drink, but who doesn’t think icewine is good. On a side note, if you think icewine is too sweet, mix it 50/50 with vodka.
Since the icewine inspired me to work with lychee fruit, I also need to make a properly balanced cocktail and the inspiration for that came from the Kir and Kir Royal. The sweet and fruity creme de cassis mixes beautifully with a dry white wine, creating a balanced drink. So, for this lychee cocktail I decided that a good crisp wine like Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio) or a dry Riesling would work nicely. To make it “Royal” we could just substitute a dry champagne or preferably a quality sparkling wine. The acidity is important to balance out the lychee fruit juice, otherwise, this drink may enter the realm of “candytail”.
Just mixing white wine and lychee fruit juice doesn’t really constitute a good cocktail so we need another component. Again I am always seeking balance and the one area that is missing in this cocktail is alcohol content. If we just mixed the lychee juice and Pinot Gris we’d end up with an alcohol strength of about 8%, which isn’t going to cut it. Wine, and drinks in general tolerate sweetness and acidity better when its alcohol content is higher. A perfect example of this is Grand Marnier, which seems to be strong in all three areas (acid, sugar, alcohol) but it works.
Most people would think vodka would be a perfect choice, but not for me. Vodka doesn’t bring anything to the party, in the way of flavour, to make the drink stand out. So taking a little inspiration from the Tiki world, rum is the choice. Specifically, a dry white rum would be perfect for this cocktail. Matusalem or Flora De Cana work really well, but any other dry white rum will work. The tropical rum flavours work nicely with the exotic lychee fruit, it seems like a match made in heaven.
By adding an ounce of rum (40%) this will help bring the alcohol content up to 16%. Sure it’s not Trader Vic strength, but it is balanced. Good wines are in the 12% to 14% alcohol range, so this fits right in. And of course if you want to bring it up a bit more, just add another ½ ounce of rum to the drink. Add a squeeze of lime juice and you now have a lychee fruit cocktail.
2oz White Wine
1oz Light Rum
1oz Lychee Juice
Dash Lime Juice
Combine all ingredients in cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into chilled wine glass. Garnish with lime or lychee fruit.
If you substitute sparkling wine, don’t add that to the shaker. Simply mix the other three ingredients and strain into a champagne flute and then top with the sparkling wine.