New York Bartenders Celebrate Lunar New Year with Jack Daniels

For Lunar New Year, we caught up with a group of Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) bartenders who are making a mark in the industry to find out their special traditions surrounding the Lunar New Year. These talented drink makers created custom cocktails with Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey that were inspired by their heritage and special memories to bring a personal touch to any festive Lunar New Year celebrations.

Using Jack Daniels as a base spirit, each beverage helps to highlight different ingredients and moments central to the AAPI cultures and traditions, and can be recreated at home using the recipes below.

Ginn Choe

Songpyeon Style Black Sesame Kick with Honey Rice and Milk

Crafted by Korean-American bartender Ginn Choe, this cocktail blends Jack Daniels Single Barrel Select with lemon juice, egg white and a homemade toasted black sesame orgeat with honey and rice milk.

“Songpyeon is a traditional sweet rice cake, colorful in variation with sweet fillings,” explains Choe. “Celebrating the year of the black rabbit, Songpyeon is eaten on Seollal, the Korean Lunar New Year, as well as on harvest moon holidays. In Korean, Songpyeon means “pine cake” as it’s traditionally steamed with pine needles, which adds an aromatic flavor as well as good chi.”

Choe continues: “I have made this cocktail as a snapshot memory in my favorite kind of childhood dessert that shapes my Korean American identity. Reminiscent of the sweet black sesame honey fillings in the dessert, I created a cocktail with toasted black sesame orgeat, honey and rice milk into a celebratory variation of a Cameron’s Kick feating Jack Daniels Single Barrel for the Year of the Black Rabbit.

Songpyeon Style Black Sesame Kick with Honey Rice and Milk recipe + preparation

  • 1 egg white
  • .75 oz. lemon juice
  • 1.5 oz. Toasted Black Sesame Orgeat with Honey & Rice Milk **
  • 2 oz. Jack Daniels Single Barrel Select

Separate egg white into large shaker tin; add lemon juice, homemade black sesame orgeat (recipe below), and Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Select to the small tin. Combine ingredients, close shaker tin and dry shake with a hard whipping motion for 30 seconds.

Add ice to the shaker tin and shake vigorously after re-sealing shaker tin. Double strain into a rocks glass with four cubes of ice. Garnish with a few black sesame seeds.

**Toasted Black Sesame Orgeat with Honey and Rice Milk

  • 2 Cups black sesame seed, toasted on a pan at medium heat for about 5 minutes while stirring often until seeds crackle and toasted smell emits.
  • 4 Cups unsweetened rice milk

Heat unsweetened rice milk over low until rice milk turns tan without bringing to a boil, approximately 15 minutes. Whirl and pulse in a food processor until ground. Let sit for a minimum of for 4 hours.

Using cheesecloth or a 250 micron superbag, or 6 layers of cheesecloth, squeeze and strain out the liquid into a clean bowl or container. (if you are like me and enjoy making your own nut milks and orgeat syrups, a Superbag is worth the investment. I personally love using Earthwise’s reusable product mesh bags). Measure the liquid, which should be around 4 cups if you have squeezed the liquid out enough. Do not worry if you have less!

Add 3 x equal parts honey to the black sesame milk into a saucepan. Stir at low heat consistently until the honey is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and let it cool. Add 1 oz vodka and stir. Funnel into a clean bottle and store in the fridge. Will last approximately 3 weeks.

Find Ginn Choe on IG at @ginndoll.

Lauren Leigh

Bokbunja Smash

Hailing from Katana Kitten, Lauren Leigh has crafted a delicious blend of Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Select with bokbunja-ju, lemon quarters and simple syrup. “While one can almost certainly count on soju or beer being present at most Seollal, or Korean Lunar New Year, celebrations, bokbunja-ju, is a less common, but always welcome addition to my family’s Seollal celebrations,” Leigh says. “Bokbunja-ju, or Korean wild raspberry wine, is known for its alleged health benefits; it has the reputation of promoting vigor and stamina. By the time Seollal rolled around, we were always happy to welcome any of this fruit’s positive effects to help make it through the long winter.”

Bokbunja Smash recipe + prep

  • 2 oz. Jack Daniels Single Barrel Select
  • .75 oz. bokbunja-ju
  • 3 lemon quarters
  • 1 teaspoon simple syrup
  • 5 mint sprigs, one reserved

Muddle lemon quarters, bokbunja-ju, simple syrup, and mint in shaker. Add Jack Daniels to tin and shake. Strain over large ice cube. Express reserved mint sprig and add as garnish.

Find Lauren on IG at @writeapostcard.

Haera Shin

Lucky Rice

Momofuku’s Haera Shin draws from the tradition of a oft-eaten dish enjoyed on Lunar New Year: Korean rice cakes. “My Lunar New Year cocktail was inspired by a dish Koreans traditionally eat on New Year’s Day,” says Shin. “Korean rice cakes are often made into a soup and the white color of the dish symbolizes new beginnings and a cleansing for the new year.”

Lucky Rice recipe + preparation

  • 1.75 oz. Jack Daniels Single Barrel
  • .5 oz. Licor 43
  • 2 oz. Toasted Rice Cake Orgeat **
  • 1 oz. Makku Makgeolli

Combine all ingredients in a shaking tin with ice. Shake and strain into Old Fashioned Glass with ice, garnish with skewered Rice Cakes

*Toasted Rice Cake Orgeat (equipment: blender, pot)

  • 1 team bag Harney & Sons Genmaicha
  • 100 grams white rice cakes
  • 200 mml almond milk
  • 400 ml water
  • 2 Cinnamon sticks, broken
  • 400 ml Simple Syrup

Add water and rice cakes to a pot and low boil for 2-3 minutes, until soft. Take off the heat and add genmaicha and cinnamon sticks. Steep until it comes to room temperature (1 hour). Extract the genmaicha tea bag, and vitamix until smooth. Cheesecloth strain (should make 600 ml rice water). Combine simple syrup and almond milk together with rice cake mixture and bottle.

Find Haera on IG at @hairyshins.

Follow along @jackdaniels_us for more recipes & updates 

Please enjoy Jack Daniels responsibly. 

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