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Brazil Meets China: Zengo Serves up Shanghai-Sao Paulo Cocktails

Brazil Meets China: Zengo Serves up Shanghai-Sao Paulo Cocktails

As if the opening of Zengo’s new Latin Lounge wasn’t reason enough to visit the Penn Quarter spot, here’s another: On Wednesday, the restaurant unveiled Test Kitchen: Shanghai-Sao Paulo, a new seasonal tasting menu available through March 15. Richard Sandoval’s Asian-Latin eatery spotlights the food and spirits of two new regions every few months, and after being treated to a tasting we can safely say that the drink offerings this time around are worth a visit. Make sure not to miss the eats, either – beverage manager Daniel Burger collaborated closely with chef Graham Bartlett to come up cocktails that complement the menu offerings.

Start with the Spiked Acai Tea, which Burger says best exemplifies the combined flavors of China and Brazil. The cocktail mixes thick and pulpy acai berry juice with acai liqueur and green teak vodka made with whole green tea leaves. The result is a full-bodied and aromatic aperitif garnished with a speared lychee – the perfect prelude to crispy Shanghai spring rolls and coconut-crusted cod bites.

Stronger and fruitier than the spiked tea, the Pomegranta Kumquat Cocktail – Zengo’s take on the caipirinha – is made with the Brazilian spirit cachaça as well as muddled kumquats, pomegranate and ginger. Drink this one and say cheers to the new year; in China, kumquat represents global prosperity while pomegranate signifies love and affection.

Though we had reservations at first about the Peppercorn Cucumber Martini, this libation is Burger’s favorite of the four and quickly became ours as well. “I don’t normally drink gin,” said Burger, “but I used Hendricks in this because it incorporates cucumber.” Fruity with the Junmai sake and squeeze of lime and a bit aromatic from Szechuan simple syrup and whole fresh peppercorn, muddled cucumber adds a spa-like touch and ensures it all goes down deceptively smoothly. Pair it with the picahna steak (tender and buttery) and the black beans with shredded pork.

Last but not least, end your feast with a Coconut Batida, in which the palm fruit makes a rare cocktail appearance in something other than a pina colada. Here, it’s in the form of coconut water with cachaça and muddled lime and pairs well with the coconut tapioca.

In all, each of these drinks is a refreshing diversion from the ubiquitous classic cocktail menu, but it’s the cucumber martini that will have us coming back for more.

781 7th St. NW; 202-393-2929

Photos by Lauren Sloat

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