Cocktail of the Week: Spirit of St. Tran

By Paul Nelson

In a few days, my wife and I will be heading overseas to Vietnam and Thailand to visit with friends and do some other stuff.  It’s been over two years since we found a Vietnamese inspired cocktail in an issue of Sunset magazine, and while I hope to be able to share some local recipes in the next couple of weeks, for now, this is as close as I can get to a Southeast Asian cocktail I’ve actually made. This originated in Seattle, and is named for Tran Hung Dao, a 13th century Vietnamese general regarded by many as one of the most brilliant tacticians in military history due to his victories over, among others, Kublai Khan. It takes a bit of work, but the complexity of flavors will likely have you making it over and over again, particularly if you enjoy Asian food!

The Spirit of St. Tran (makes two drinks)

  • 1 tsp loose oolong tea
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 10-12 fresh mint leaves
  • 4-5 red shiso leaves (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp lychee puree
  • 2-3 tsp lime juice
  • ¼ cup aged rum
  • ¼ cup pineapple juice

Using ¼ cup of water, make some strong oolong tea with the tea leaves, then strain out the tea leaves.  Add the sugar to the tea and stir until dissolved. You’ve just made an oolong simple syrup – congratulations! Let the syrup cool before using in the cocktail. If you know that you like this drink, I recommend making a larger amount of this simple syrup for future use. It should last a couple of weeks in the refrigerator, preferably in a mason jar.

Shiso leafs are optional, if you can find them at an Asian grocery stores. They are part of the mint family, and are sometimes used in sushi restaurants as decorative accents on plates.

Lychees are native originally to China but now are grown in many parts of the world. You generally can find them at Asian grocery stores. Fresh ones are best – they’re red, bumpy pods that you peel off to expose the tender fruit inside – but you can also buy canned. If you’re using fresh, you’ll need to take the seed out of the center of the fruit before blending it up. Throw some of the lychees and juice into a blender until smooth for this drink.

Add the mint leaves, 2-3 of the shiso leaves, the lychee puree, lime juice, rum and pineapple juice to a shaker with ice and shake vigorously for a minute or so. Put a shiso leaf into each of the two glasses and then fill with ice. Strain the liquid in the shaker into each glass and serve. Hopefully by next week I’ll be able to share a firsthand drink from Hanoi!

As they say in Vietnam (according to Google Translate, at least) Thửớng thửc!  Or, enjoy!