Five elements in a Cocktail Glass
Designing modern cocktails with the ancient Chinese philosophy of five elements is itself an interesting try; what’s more interesting is that it is done by a non-Chinese mixologist. They taste proper, but what deserves respect is they are supported by proper theory.
Gagan Gurung from Nepal, bar manager of Central’s newest bar, Fang Gang, created a series of ten mixes according to the five-element theory. That the universe is a representation of wood, fire, earth, gold, and water elements is one of the roots of Chinese culture, and every element is reflected in many things, such as taste, colour and season. Why think of the five elements in the first place? “Because this is an Asian restaurant, it makes sense to blend in Asian elements in the design of cocktails. I had thought of using the various dynasties in China, but it’s hard to even yet started. Then cookbook with the theme of the five elements, I learned that they are very usable in food, and so I decided to have them in cocktails,” Gurung explained.
The all black Black and Pure, served in high ball glass and a “black rose” – a clever garnish by circling soba noodles soaked with squid ink. Black colour and savoury flavour are “water” element – also making up the black appearance are blueberry, coffee, tea, together with lemon juice and cinnamon which enhances the flavours. If you prefer an extra bit of acidity, then “wood” is the direction to look for. Lemon and mango are the backbone for Nuer Fang, which is served with wooden mug and a piece of lemongrass as straw. The spirit base comprises of goji-infused bourbon, nutty yellow wine and mezcal to complete an overall “wood” feeling.
Every mixologist would say that people are the most important element behind a successful cocktail. Gurung said some bartenders prefer to concentrate in mixing and stay behind the bar table. And in fact, a typical local customer doesn’t talk much either! “So someone has to take the first step!” Gurung said. “I require my team to take turn to sit outside and proactively talk to customers.” He believed customers would come back because of goof service.
But he is no “devil boss,” instead he has his ways to motivate his colleagues. He was in the industry for years and consistently achieve high in international mixology competitions. He is a model of success, and here’s how he taught his team: “money can’t be your motivation for work.” With himself as example, he earned just HK$7,500 a month when he first worked in a bar ten years ago. “If you only look at money, it’s impossible you work happily,” instead you need to have passion, you have the motivation to your work, and naturally do it well and be rewarded. “I’ve been to seven to eight countries for work or competition, and more importantly, I don’t have to pay for all that!” he laughed. No wonder every member of Gurung’s team looks passionate and happy.
來自尼泊爾、中環最新酒吧餐廳Fang Fang的酒吧經理Gagan Gurung，以中國的五行元素，一口氣創作了十款雞尾酒。金木水火土五行，可以說是中國文化其中一個本源，每個元素所對應的東西非常多，例如對應味道、顏色和季節等，但為甚麼一開始會想到用五行呢？「因為這是一家亞洲口味的餐廳，創作雞尾酒也想用一些亞洲元素。原本有想過用中國的朝代的創作，不過想來想去不知道用甚麼素材好。後來看到一本以五行為主題的烹飪書，發現五行可用的素材很廣泛，就決定做五行雞尾酒。」Gurung解釋說。
例如以high ball glass奉客的Black but pure，整杯黑漆漆，上面架著一片由墨魚汁蕎麥麵圈出來的黑玫瑰。黑色和鹹味（墨魚汁）都是水屬性的元素，構成漆黑的包括藍莓、咖啡、茶等，當然還有調味的元素如檸檬和肉桂。若喜歡酸味重的，一定就向木屬性的方向去選擇，例如Nuer Fang，以木杯去奉客，味道以芒果和檸檬作主打，更以香茅作飲管，酒底用上浸了杞子味的波本威士忌、果仁味重的黃酒以及梅斯卡爾酒，整體感覺很「木」。