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Tom Kha as a Cocktail: the Metropolitan Bar's C3 Martini

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What's the word for those not-really martinis: appletinis, espresso martinis, mangotinis, and all those other overly-sweet concoctions? I'm generally not fond of such "something-tini" drinks, at least if they don't involve gin (or maybe vodka) and a whisper of vermouth. [1] I'll admit that this is a kind of name snobbery: it's not that such things can't sometimes be good drinks, but they're not martinis. I'm glad I let curiousity overcome my natural dislike of fauxtinis when we had our Valentine's dinner at Nahm, or else I would have missed the Met Bar's "C3 Martini" due to a silly prejudice.

IMG 0403The C3 perfectly captures the coconut and spice flavors of tom kha soup, a common Thai dish of which I'm very fond. The drink is served very cold: the humid Thai air had covered the glass in a thin sheen of condensation before the drink had reached our table. Garnished with what looked to be a floating kaffir lime leaf, its consistency is distinctly thick and soupy, and the pepper gives a sharply aromatic flavor lacking in many mixed drinks. Unsurprisingly, this cocktail perfectly complements Thai food, even moderating the hellish spiciness of some dishes.

Unfortunately, it's a bit of a sausage-factory drink: the effect is magical when you don't know what's in it, but loses its charm once you've seen it made. We went back to the Met Bar last night because I wanted to figure out the recipe. In case you don't want to know how it works, I've put my observations after the cut. 

The bartenders at the Met Bar did not seem inclined to engage in long chats in English, and the drink is listed as a speciality of the Bangkok Met Bar, so I did not ask them for a precise recipe. Instead, I noted what they were doing as they made my drink. My notes below are far from precise, and it would doubtless require a bit of experimentation to get the proportions right:

  • Chop a few chillis (same as in tom kha soup, David Thompson's book calls these 'bird's eye chillis'), cut a few slices of peeled ginger, add to crushed ice in the bottom of a cocktail shaker, and muddle well.
  • Add whipped cream (similar to Reddi Wip), probably about a tablespoon.
  • Add about 1.5-2.0 oz. of Malibu
  • Add coconut milk and a small amount of orange juice.
  • Shake very well, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. (The Met bartender used both a cocktail strainer and an additional hand strainer to make sure the drink had no crushed chilli or ginger.)
  • Garnish with floating lime leaf. (I think a mint leaf would work as well here.)

Having seen the component parts, it's easy to understand how the drink mimicks tom kha soup. Besides the coconut and chilli, the small amount of OJ adds a little tangy kick, and its consistency derives from the whipped cream. On the other hand, I rather preferred the drink before I knew that it had been bulked up with Reddi Wip.

[1] My favorite martini recipe is probably a the "Queen martini" from Cafe Baba in Oxford. Take a jar of large cocktail olives, drain the juice, and replace it with vermouth. Let sit for about a week in the fridge. (The olives will keep for quite a while.) When you want to make the martini, place the olive in the glass and pour Bombay Sapphire gently over it.

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3 Comments

I am looking forward to 1) drinking with you when you get back to US and 2) the day your wife is no longer a girl drink drunk.

Just saw this...BUAHAHAHAHAHAHAH

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