The history: As someone who has spent a fair amount of time sipping cocktails and pondering over (and writing) cocktail books, it’s rare that I meet a drink that makes me stop and think, “Wow, that’s something totally different.”
It’s not that bartenders aren’t inventive, because they are, incredibly so. But the history of cocktails is a rich, deep one, and many modern drinks are influenced or inspired by other drinks. However, the Watch Me Nay Nay, a wine cocktail from the Dynasty Room (Chinatown–International District, 714 S King St.; 206.682.0297) provided one of those moments.
Wine cocktails can be traced back thousands of years; it was common practice to mix wine with water and herbs back in the B.C. and early A.D. years. But I had never seen a wine cocktail that is a combination of mezcal—tequila’s smoky relative—and graceful sparkling rosé. When I saw the description of this drink on the Dynasty Room menu, I was sure those two would not work nicely together. But drink creators Michael Chu (bar manager at the Dynasty Room and its sibling, East Trading Co., and who has been in the industry since he was 16) and Morgan Marchant (a pal and shaker at Liberty) proved me wrong.
The update: This drink is different from mimosas and other wine cocktails, which have only a few ingredients and lean heavier on the wine. The Watch Me Nay Nay starts with a base of mezcal, and then a decent amount of tangy lemon juice and China Mist (an oolong and jasmine blend) tea syrup is added. All cocktails on Chu’s Dynasty Room menu have a tea infusion or herbal element in them, tying into the bar’s Asian theme. The drink also includes an ingredient once discarded as syrupy nonsense: sloe gin. Like many booze types today, sloe gin is having a renaissance, thanks to brands like Sipsmith (used here), in which natural wild sloe berries are added to a base of its award-winning gin. All those ingredients are topped with sparkling rosé.
The final taste: The mezcal smoke hits first, but gently, transitions smoothly into a citrus, floral, fruity center; it trails off cleanly and dry, thanks to the rosé, which distributes a dainty effervescence throughout. It’s already a hit in the Dynasty Room, a bar that oozes cool, with low lights and rad wallpaper of graphically-drawn Asian spirit bottles. To get to the bar, you walk through the old restaurant entrance and past what was the main restaurant dining area (you can rent this space out for parties now); around the corner is the bar, which has a hidden hang-out vibe. Stop in soon, as the building is scheduled for destruction and the bar will be gone then.
Watch Me Nay Nay
Chu uses Agave de Cortes mezcal, made in Santiago Matatlan, Oaxaca. It’s worth tracking down at local liquor stores, as is the Sipsmith sloe gin—I’d be wary of other brands, which veer toward heavier sweetness. You’ll need to make the tea syrup, too (recipe below), but that’s part of the fun!
1 ounce Agave De Cortez mezcal
1/2 ounce Sipsmith Sloe Gin
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1/2 ounce China Mist tea syrup (see below for recipe)
2 ounces sparkling rosé
Wide lemon twist, for garnish
Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the mezcal, sloe gin, lemon juice and syrup. Shake well.
Strain through a fine strainer into a coupe glass. Top with sparkling rosé. Garnish with the lemon, being sure to express the citrus oil over the glass before dropping it in.
China Mist Tea Syrup
This flavorful syrup uses China Mist Tea (not the brand, but the variety that you can buy in loose leaf form at Market Spice), which is a blend of Oolong tea, Jasmine green tea, and a hint of almond. It’s an ideal addition to the Dynasty Room’s Watch Me Nay Nay cocktail.
2 cups water
15 grams China Mist Tea, or approximately 1 tablespoon
450 grams white sugar, or 2-1/4 cups
Add two cups of water to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the tea, and steep for five minutes.
Remove the pan, and strain to tea out.
Add the sugar. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Store in the fridge.