New York may be experiencing a refined Chinese food renaissance — with modern spots like Tuome, Decoy, Yunnan BBQ and 2 Duck Goose — but that hasn’t done much for the stagnant state of their drinks and desserts. That is until now. Opened by Orson Salicetti, the former head bartender at Apotheke, Lumos NYC is America’s first “Baijiu Bar,” showcasing the traditional, 5000 year-old celebratory liquor of China.
While it happens to be the number one best selling spirit in the world, highly potent (read: 80-120% proof), Baijiu doesn’t have a whole lot of presence in the Western Hemisphere. A clear, white alcohol generally distilled from sorghum or other grains that have been fermented in earthen pits, it’s a social drink integral to Chinese culture, usually sipped as part of a toast from ceramic “shot” cups. And in accordance, Lumos NYC also offers one-ounce tastes of five different varieties of Baijiu, from the “gateway” HKB (a comparatively easy-drinking libation, with red fruit and meadow grass notes) to the famous Mao Tai, with a mild and mellow soy sauce-like aftertaste.
But that’s just for starters! Lumos’ expansive menu also includes Baijiu infusions, flavored with apricot, cherry, Sichuan pepper or dill, and offered by the shot or the bottle. They even serve high proof Manhattan and Martinis made with aged Baijiu, that’s been kept in oak barrels for a minimum of eight weeks; and a 17-strong selection of house cocktails, such as the “Falling South” with rum, pumpkin puree and spices, inspired by sweet pumpkin porridge popular in China during the colder seasons, the “Otoño,” made with fig-infused Baijiu and apple cider and the “Good Luck” with cranberry-infused Baijiu, vodka and orange liqueur; its bright red color symbolizing good luck, fortune and joy. And needless to say (considering the high octane nature of the tipples), there’s a solid selection of tapas-style, alcohol-absorbing snacks as well — from Lions Head Meatballs, wrapped in Chinese cabbage and house-baked bread, to Crab Cake Sliders, topped with briny pickles and Shanghai spice sauce, not to mention glutinous balls of Sticky Rice, liberally studded with scarlet Chinese sausage.
So hightail it to West Houston Street and bone up on Baijiu, which, thanks to Lumos, is bound to up the cocktail programs at New York’s growing spate of hip, forward-thinking Chinese restaurants. Now we just need someone to raise the stakes on Chinese desserts!
90 W Houston St.