Okay, so here’s the deal. We know that some of you out there go into fits every time we write something about Hop Sing Laundromat, but frankly we don’t care. Haters gonna hate and, in the meantime, Lee and his Hop Sing crew just keep doing stuff to make the act of drinking all the more pleasurable. Like for example…
- Deciding that now is the time for Hop Sing to start keeping regular hours. Meaning 7-day-a-week hours, with the (somewhat hidden) door opening at 5pm every evening and staying open ’til last call. And this will start on Monday. At 6:30 or so. Because Lee just likes to fuck with you like that.
- Launching a 3-day-a-week Happy Hour program called “Washy Washy Hour”–which, according to Lee, is German for Happy Hour. Obviously. During said hours (which will run from 5pm-9pm, Sunday through Tuesday), he’s cutting the price on his drinks but serving only the best of his formidable booze collection. Other stuff he might possibly be doing: Making it an all-shots happy hour (which would be awesome, considering the caliber of hooch he pours), making one night a week an all-tiki happy hour (scorpion bowls for everyone!), offering free whiskey to journalists (okay, I made that last one up).
- Debuting a new menu, starting Monday, which will offer both classic cocktails, Lee’s versions of classic cocktails, drinks he totally just invented all on his own and at least one concoction that he conceived, designed, polished and perfected all while Art and I were sitting at the bar yesterday afternoon, drunkenly heckling his efforts. As it turns out, it is a fantastic drink. So good that we named it ourselves.
But first, here are some of the other new drinks he’s going to be pouring.
The East Passyunk Yacht Club
Fresh mint, from a bag bursting with fresh mint that Lee kept behind the bar. He throws in the stems and the leaves–whole bunches of the stuff, which just seems wrong to me–and then attacks it with the muddling stick like it said something nasty about his mother. Then there’s the Plymouth gin, the carefully measured pour of Barenjager, half a lime, squeezed fresh, and a complicated shaking routine which involves shaking the liquid only, cracking the cans, adding 5 ice cubes exactly, shaking again, tasting, shaking more and serving.
It is a lovely drink–ungarnished save for the mint leaves which, apparently, have been broken and nearly atomized by the shaking and muddling and now lay like a dusting of parsley on the surface of the liquor-and-lime. The mint actually fools your mouth into thinking the drink is sweeter than it is. It is tart but not overly herby–the lime and barenjager having taken the gin out back and kicked the teeth right out of it. A perfect spring drink–light and bright and refreshing.
The Philly Colada
I don’t mind getting caught in the rain, but I hate pina coladas. Matter of fact, with the exception of Indian and Southeast Asian sauces, I hate almost anything which has coconut as a primary component. And yet I liked this drink. Why? Because there is something slightly magical about the way Lee conceives of a drink, and 99% of that magic is in using product that most people have never even heard of. In this case, that would be a super-high-end coconut liqueur from Mexico.
“Taste it,” Lee insisted, pouring a splash into a rocks glass. Because that’s what he does when I tell him I don’t like something–he finds some ridiculously good version of it and makes a liar out of me. In this case, it tasted nothing like the cheap in the sticky bottle found behind every bar. It tasted nothing like the disgusting, lukewarm coconut milk poured out of a can. It was sharp and boozy and had a high, weird sweetness that was like licking a flaming coconut. Or maybe like chasing a fistful of coconut jelly beans with a shot of kerosene. You know, but in a good way.
Don Q Grand Anejo, a shot of El Dorado high-proof 151, fresh pineapple, juiced and whipped into a foam, a little mint, a dash of cream, coconut liqueur, shaky-shaky and bam–the Philly Colada. The remaining 1% of Lee’s magic in crafting drinks is that the alcohol in them (and there is always so much alcohol) seems to jump over the front of your tongue completely. The burn of it, the muscle, always hits in the back of your mouth, tickling your brainstem, carried, in this case, on the back of the cream, the pineapple foam. It tastes like what you always imagine a pina colada should taste like–which is to say that it tastes absolutely nothing like any pina colada you’ve ever actually had.
Cuban Missile Crisis
This is Lee’s favorite of his new drinks. The one he seems most proud of. It’s also the simplest.
El Dorado 21-year aged rum.
Served neat with a lemon twist and a hit or orange peel
And that’s it. What does it taste like? “Like a more complete whiskey,” according to Lee. Like a super-expensive, long-aged whiskey, deeply complex and strangely, almost distractingly smooth. This drink is more of an alcoholic chemistry experiment than a proper beverage, but that would not stop me from ordering it again. And again and again.
Bonus points if you can figure out how he came up with the name.
Laurel Bay or The Shirley Temple Of Doom
Lee didn’t have a name for this one yet, but he was adding it to the menu because he’s sick of people coming up to his bar and asking him to make a drink where they can’t taste the alcohol. A normal person would’ve used this as an opportunity to make some weak and fruit-juice heavy concoction that wouldn’t twist the wings of a fly. Lee being Lee, he went in a different direction, conceiving a drink made entirely of liquor (2.5 ounces of it, all told), but which tastes not the slightest bit of alcohol. It is the smoothest, gentlest, most deceptively clean drink you’ll ever taste. And when you wind up on the floor, you’ll have no idea how it happened. But here’s a hint:
Cold River potato vodka, Dolin blanc vermouth, Lillet and orange bitters, iced and carefully stirred, then served up with an orange twist. It comes to you clear and refreshing, tasting of nothing so much as slightly vaporous water touched with a bit of orange. It’s like one of those flavored-water drinks you over-pay for at the grocery store. Like something you’d be served by the hippies at a juice bar. You can drink the entire thing in one swallow and not feel a thing. At least not immediately. Not until it has done its sneaky and wonderful work on your brain and liver.
Art and I came up with the dueling names for this one–choosing from a list of about a dozen that we considered. Laurel Bay refers to the neighborhood in South Carolina where Joe Frazier grew up. Lee had originally considered calling it The Broad Street Boxer, in honor of Frazier, but we liked our moniker better–such a nice and innocent sounding name, right up until the left hook gets ya. And the Shirley Temple of Doom? Well that’s pretty self-explanatory.
Cry To Me
Named after Solomon Burke’s best-known song and the hands-down best cocktail of our (very long) afternoon at Hop Sing. I’d love to tell you some kind of deep and intimate details about the construction of this one, but my notes are something of a wreck–crumpled, scribbly and smeared with what appears to be chocolate liqueur. Still, I know it was awesome. I know I drank my glass dry. And I know it was made with Laird’s apple brandy, green chartreuse, Barenjager, Rothman & Winter apricot liqueur and a dash of Angustora bitters–a point that Lee was adamant about our noticing because, apparently, some people accuse him of not being a proper drink inventor because he doesn’t know how to use bitters.
Those people are wrong. Fuck ‘em. Drink this immediately. Thank us later.
The Closer or DTF
Meletti Cloccolato coffee liqueur is amazing. Let me just say that from the start. It comes from Italy and, as far as I know, Hop Sing is the only bar in town that stocks it. I could drink it straight all night long if not for the fact that I would probably go into diabetic shock before I got drunk enough to not feel weird about sitting at a bar drinking shots of coffee liqueur.
But that’s all beside the point. Art and I were sitting at the bar when this bottle arrived. We tasted it. Lee decided he was going to use it to invent a new coffee drink for the new menu–which he then proceeded to do while Art and I sat there sneaking nips from the bottle and polishing off the dregs of the dozen other cocktails in front of us.
Lee made coffee–strong and black. He muddled some mint (because, on this new spring menu, mint is going to feature pretty heavily and because mint and chocolate go well together). He started poking around his bar and pulled out some cream, bottles of Irish whiskey, bourbon, cognac–all of which were dutifully tasted and rejected in favor of a bottle of Isle of Skye scotch. Once brewed and mixed and shaken and poured, it tasted like a boozy, creamy, chocolate-spiked coffee with a burning finish that reminded me of why alcohol and caffeine are such fast friends. Served tall in a highball glass, over ice and with a twist, it was like a small and highly dangerous bomb just waiting to go off. We drank ours down pretty quickly. At some point after that Art and I realized that we should probably get a cab because someone had gone and tilted all the sidewalks in Philadelphia 45-degrees while we weren’t looking.
Ask for The Closer by name. Try one on Monday night when the hour grows late, or the next time you’re finishing out your night at Hop Sing Laundromat. Even if Lee doesn’t put it on his final menu, ask for it anyway. He’ll know what you’re talking about. Have one at the conclusion of a date gone well or, perhaps, a date gone really, really badly. Share a round with someone special–or maybe someone who’s just special enough. It’s called The Closer for a reason, folks. Use it wisely.
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