We’ve recently expanded our cocktail menu 0ptions here at Mei Mei and wanted to give you a little BTS (behind the scenes) look at what goes into creating a new drink for the menu. How do we make a drink but keep it line with everything we do at Mei Mei, as in how do we make it delicious, interesting, and as locally sourced as possible? What do we already sell or produce that could work well in a cocktail? We’ve added 3 new cocktails to the menu, but for the purpose of this post we’ll stick to the origin story of our “Purple Rain.”
To start, we don’t have a full bar license so any alcoholic beverage we serve must fall under our more restrictive “cordials” license. So what constitutes a cordial you ask? Damn good question, it turns out the answer is murkier than most mixed drinks. The legal definition, while a thrilling read, isn’t actually all that clarifying, defining a cordial as,
All alcoholic beverages manufactured or produced by mixing or redistilling neutral spirits, brandy, gin, or other distilled spirits with or over fruits, flowers, plants or pure juices therefrom, or other natural flavoring materials, or with extracts derived from infusions, percolations, or maceration of such materials and containing no less than two and one-half percent sugar by weight.
Super clear and easy to understand right? Not so much, but after consulting with the folks over at Bully Boy Distillers in Boston we discovered they created 3 different spirits that fit under our cordials license. Their Hub Punch specifically piqued our interest. The cordial, originating at the Hub Hotel in New York, was brought to Boston in the late 1800s by C.H. Graves & Sons whose bottled version quickly became a local staple. However with no full bottles of the original Hub Punch still in existence, Bully Boy had to recreate and reimagine the recipe with a combination of “historical context and a lot of experimentation.” It’s a delicious modern take on old time local favorite.
Cordial acquired, it was time to fill out the rest of our glass. Our eyes turned to our taps, and specifically to the Ginger Kombucha from Urban Farm Fermentory in Portland Maine. The Hub Punch pairs quite well with ginger, but instead of purchasing an entirely new product like Ginger Ale or Ginger beer just for this singular cocktail, we began experimenting with different ratios of Hub Punch and the Ginger Kombucha we already have on tap.
After some (read a lot) of fiddling with the ratio we finally settled on the recipe we felt had the best balance of refreshing and slightly sweet. The Hub punch already has deep red almost purple color to it, and it’s camera ready for the age of instagramers.
Enter: Beet Juice
Beet juice is one of the most powerful natural dyes (ever seen a chefs apron after they finish prepping some beets?) and also a byproduct of our Beets By Mei small plate and Beetnik sandwich. It has such an intense coloring that we only need a few drops per drink. The rest of our excess beet juice goes to our thirsty mid-shift cooks who love consuming the versatile vegetable. A couple drops of that beet juice added for coloring into the Ginger Kombucha and Hub Punch and there you have it folks, the newest member of our menu, Purple Rain.