Restaurant innovates cocktails, mixing in traditional Chinese medicine

China 24

Traditional Chinese medicine dates back thousands of years. But it’s getting a modern twist — and taste — in Washington, D.C.

CGTN’s Frances Kuo shows us how.

Tiger Fork is one of the newest restaurants in D.C. The food is creating quite a buzz, but it’s the drinks that are really grabbing people’s attention. Each one contains herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine.

“I’m not aware of anyone doing what we’re doing,” said Tiger Fork’s Beverage Director, Ian Fletcher. “People think it’s a joke.”

But Fletcher is getting the last laugh.

“It was something we knew we wanted to incorporate from the very beginning when we were conceptualizing the restaurant,” Fletcher said.

The drinks—which are not just for medicinal use—are proving popular with customers.

“It tastes very herby and kind of strong but very different and cool,” said Katie Denboer, as she sipped one of Fletcher’s creations.

“My father always said that medicine is not supposed to taste good, otherwise you would keep tasting it, like it was an actual drink,” said Jeff Nickeson, as he lapped up one offering.

And that’s the twist—Tiger Fork is actually making traditional Chinese medicine that’s just as tasty as it is healthy.

“The ingredients themselves are what throw people off,” said Fletcher. “There’s a lot of bark, twigs, roots, nuts, that kind of stuff.”

Tiger Fork offers four special TCM cocktails, using TCM ingredients like ginseng.

“The TCM cocktails are our number one best seller, even more than wine or beer,” said Fletcher. “They’re hot.”

Each of the drinks has a different benefit: detoxifying, boosting the immune system, or boosting energy or combatting anxiety.

A big concern for Fletcher in making the drinks was masking the taste of the medicine. Citrus flavors added to some of the cocktails did the trick.

Another consideration—making sure the combination of alcohol and herbs was safe. Fletcher spent nearly a year researching the ingredients, and even hired a specialist to review them.

“That’s part of what we were doing in consulting with the TCM practitioner was the amount we would need to use to make it effective but not to hurt people,” Fletcher said.

But customers should be careful not to confuse the TCM cocktails with prescription medicines.

“You’re still drinking alcohol,” cautions Fletcher.

Most of the customers at Tiger Fork had never heard of traditional Chinese medicine, so they were getting their first taste of it.

“The idea that it’s something new and different, that’s a draw,” said Denboer.

“I think it’s a fresh take outside the usual,” said Nickeson.

A blend of old and new, in every sip.