Pho and cocktails may seem like an odd mix, but at downtown's LucLac Vietnamese Kitchen, bar manager Adam Ho his cocktail list with Asian flavors like mango, lychee, and coconut cream. But since day one, the spot's signature has been its boozy Thai tea, infused with kaffir lime. "I knew that, owning a Vietnamese restaurant, everyone going through would want a Thai tea, Vietnamese iced coffee," Ho says. "So [the question was], How are we going to make these our own signature? — you don't want it to be what everyone's done before."
The result: a Thai tea inspired by Italian sodas, combining house-made soda water with a tea-flavored syrup. To make the syrup, Ho boils "multi-gallon" pots of water to brew a Thai tea at double strength. After a 25-minute rolling boil, Ho double-strains the mixture to remove all tea leaves (the second strain goes through a fine cheesecloth), returning the liquid to the pot to add sugar (in a 1:1 ratio) and fresh kaffir lime leaves. The mixture receives another boil to completely reduce into a syrup that's mixed into two of Luc Lac's most popular cocktails — "it's almost hard to keep up with it," Ho says.
The spot's Thai Tea Creamosa — available as both a no-proof and boozy drink — combines the syrup with soda water; to mimic the condensed milk normally added to a Thai iced tea, Ho tops the concoction with a (vegan) salty coconut cream and fresh basil. Meanwhile, Luc Lac's best-selling drink, the "Sassy Sour," mixes the syrup with bourbon, lime juice, mango juice, and a fresh lime twist, with the peel's aromatics opening up even more flavors.
· Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen [Official site]
· All Previous Luc Lac Coverage [Eater PDX]