dLeña | Washington, D.C.
By Patricia Fitzgerald
May 9, 2022
Savory is trumping sweet in modern drink development today, and The Little Dragon at Ma Der Lao Kitchen is a prime example of such exciting flavor-forward opportunities for cocktail menus. Crafted by Jeslyn Chanchaleune, Bar Manager, The Little Dragon is a spicy, savory, sweet, citrusy, margarita-inspired drink that supports the authentic Lao dishes produced by her brother, Chef/Owner Jeff Chanchaleune.
Employing the familiar margarita to pull in authentic global flavors is a smart strategy here, showcasing the Lao ingredients in an accessible format. Differentiation comes from adding a signature jeow som dip, which features cilantro, garlic, fresh ginger, Thai chiles, lime juice, fish sauce, sugar and scallions. The combination is a flavor bomb, and when used in The Little Dragon, it balances the sweeter ingredients by delivering umami and a hint of spice, reinforced with a Tajín rim. “I’ve always wanted to make a drink with fish sauce and bring out the savory notes that you don’t usually see in cocktails,” says Jeslyn Chanchaleune. “After creating The Little Dragon, I’ve been exploring more ingredients used in Lao cooking, such as lemongrass and tamarind.”
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