Frankie Zou of Botany Bar has been a force on the Beijing scene for over a decade, dating to his time at Maison Boulud and Domus. But while he is comfortable behind the bar, this year he plans to be out and about more than ever, all to promote his homegrown gin, a 26-ingredient blend that has seen many a revision and is now being made in commercial quantities in Chengdu.
Botany gin is heavy on lemongrass, which will add pep to select cocktails and should, as Zou hopes, be a nice pairing for southeast Asian cuisine. There are also hints of everything from lavender to Sichuan peppercorn in there. Try some straight before jumping into Botany’s cocktails and snacks.
Speaking of food, Zou is expanding the menu at his fairly new digs on the first floor of Yongli Plaza, the same building where Botany first opened as an apartment turned bar. (It has seats for 50 people, two thirds inside and one third on the adjoining patio.)
My favorite dish during a recent visit was homemade sausages, with an ideal firmness, on bacon bits, sauerkraut and creamy mashed potatoes (rmb65). It seems like the perfect dish around martini number three.
Zou is also pushing pizza: the Thai green curry chicken (rmb75) brings tangy sauce and richly flavor packed toppings though the crust is a bit heavy for my tastes. Still, on Wednesdays from 7 PM to 9 PM, you can get that pizza and a gin tonic for rmb50, so give it a try yourself. Zou also plans to introduce an avocado and crab salad dish (a Boulud specialty) among others.
Back to the gin: Zou says it is being stocked in spots like Opposite House and The Peninsula, as well as Hulu last year. He plans to raise its profile with a gin master class this month, a party in Nali Patio next month, and participation in festivals and a U.S. gin competition. And, of course, in Botany’s cocktails, including the Flamingo shown above: the gin gave a nice zing to the richness of pickled beet root and cream soda.
This gin isn’t Zou’s only area of experimentation: his tinkering includes a whiskey, a Cointreau-style spirit and a rhubarb gin with a pink tint from raspberries and character from mint, basil, coriander, fennel and more. But give his house gin a try first. And here’s that pizza deal (map at this link).
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