While South Korean pop stars may have helped catapult the country’s explosively popular Honey Butter Chips to Michael Jackson status circa 2014, it was the East Village’s inventive Korean boîte Oiji that rejiggered the snack into a dessert and sprung it on New Yorkers a year later. And now, bar honcho Ryan Te has turned Manhattan’s smash hit into a sippable cocktail. Meet Oiji’s honey buttered rum ($17), which debuted earlier this year.
While many diners frequent Oiji for chefs Brian Kim and Tae Kyung Ku’s reimagined Korean dishes, which celebrate traditional flavors in modern constructions, few realize that the man behind the bar also has a culinary background, with time spent in the kitchen at The Modern. Te’s understanding of flavor dictates many of Oiji’s inspired libations, like his take on a soju Negroni (with jasmine-infused soju, sweet vermouth, Campari and orange bitters) and, of course, that honey buttered rum.
Salty, golden-fried, house-made potato chips saturated in melted butter, honey, a pinch of chile and salt—also available à la mode with a scoop of vanilla ice cream—serve as both the inspiration and pairing partner to Te’s dessert-like riff on the classic hot buttered rum.
The drink’s "final version came through problem solving, and taking all the things wrong with the first, second and third versions, to create the ideal version of what a honey buttered rum could be," says Te, who took cues from a traditional sabayon, incorporating butter, eggs, gelatin and apple cider into a mixture meant to "charge out of an iSi gun, eliminating the need to whisk à la minute."
The main liquor here is rum, and Te adds a veritable bar shelf’s worth of booze to build flavor nuance: Kirk and Sweeney 18-year-old rum, Avuá Amburana Cachaça, Rhum J.M 100-proof rhum agricole blanc, Coruba blackstrap rum, in addition to Velvet Falernum, oloroso sherry, pimento dram, Cynar and lemon.
"The eggs and gelatin emulsify the butter fat, so when the sabayon is combined with the rum, they don't separate; instead, they form one homogenous drink, with the foamier parts resting at the top like a cappuccino," Te explains.
The final result, served hot in a snifter, is a sweet—but not too sweet—dram, with a complex backbone of multiple rooms that’s brightened by the lemon and balanced by the Cynar. To finish it all off, Te dusts that foamy, cappuccino-like cap with cayenne and cinnamon. It’s the first thing you’ll taste when you take a sip, and one thing’s for sure: It promises to, uh, butter you up.
During In Good Spirits month, we're going behind the bar to find out what separates aperitifs from digestifs, which It cocktails the world's top bartenders crave and how to turn your home into the hottest speakeasy in town.
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