There’s nothing we love more than a bartender who can get a little creative, especially as we watch fads in our hometowns slip by without us there to enjoy them. How can our Beijing bartenders keep on top of the crafty trends when not everything they need is available in this city?

These four mixologists have no boundaries. We asked each of them about the single ingredient they couldn’t work without and how they got a hold of it, whether it was by sneaking it through customs in a suitcase or by means of a firsthand expedition to far-flung farms.

Ingredient: Musk sticks
Source: Melbourne, Australia
Drink: Fairy Floose
Bar: Mao Mao Chong
Runner: Stephanie Rocard

This traditional Australian candy comes in the form of a pink, malleable stick with a musky, floral flavor that Rocard says is perfect for female drinkers. She infuses tequila with musk sticks because she believes the musk complements the herbaceous character of the tequila and provides just the right amount of sweetness. The tequila is then paired with lime, fruit juice and crushed ice – “a well-balanced tequila that doesn’t remind people of their bad memories is good.”  

Ingredient: Citrus honey
Source: Yuanzhang, Hunan
Drink: Red Honey Ale
Bar: Panda Brew Pub
Runner: Kurt Xia and Pan Dinghao

Kurt Xia and Pan Dinghao tried 11 different kinds of honey in Beijing before giving up. Xia says none of their samples boasted a flavor that would do a beer justice. Then they decided to go south to one of China’s honey capitals, a small town called Yuanzhang. There, they tried six different flavors before settling on a red variant attributed to a rare flower from a local orange. It only blooms for half a month, so one can be sure Panda Brew Pub won’t be stocking this bee-spoke beer for long.

Ingredient: Wormwood
Source: Morocco
Drink: Queen of Casablanca
Bar: Cu Ju
Runner: Badr Benjelloun

Wormwood is most commonly known for its inclusion in absinthe, but Badr Benjelloun grew up drinking it in Morocco in his mint tea. It makes for a bitter twist, but in the Queen of Casablanca, it complements the juniper in the gin, so much so that Badr has brought the herb back to Beijing for the last three years. To make his signature drink, he infuses the gin for three days, adds mint, lime, sugar, cucumber, bitters and another ingredient virtually unavailable in Beijing: rosewater.

Ingredient: Yerbe mate
Source: South America (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay)
Drink: El Immigrante
Bar: Palms L.A. Kitchen and Bar
Runner: Christian Jensen

Christian Jensen began infusing his vodka with yerbe mate, a type of caffeinated herb commonly consumed like tea in parts of South America, at his sister’s house in downtown Los Angeles. His parents are South American, so he grew up drinking mate, which is traditionally shared by close friends in one gourd and a metal straw. In 2009, he began hauling as much as ten kilos of the herb to Beijing, at one point filling half a large suitcase. Jensen says airport security has yet to be suspicious, and thankfully so, or one may not have the chance to try his El Immigrante, which pairs the infused vodka with lime syrup and Sprite.  

Photos: Mitchell Pe Masilun

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