Meet Your Mixologist: Kelley Lee of The Alchemist Cocktail Kitchen
According to the Alchemist Cocktail Kitchen’s menu, “alchemy is an ancient path of spiritual purification and transformation, a journey of purifying one’s base material and achieving an enlightened state of being.”
We checked in with the very enlightened Kelley Lee, a prolific Shanghai restaurateur and L.A. native. Lee ripped open the food and beverage envelope in China’s sexiest city when she opened the doors at the Alchemist Cocktail Kitchen, the first molecular gastro-pub in all of Shanghai.
What was the concept behind The Alchemist Kitchen Cocktail?
Kelly Lee: It is first and foremost a cocktail “scratch” bar where we serve high quality cocktails made using molecular techniques and avant-garde presentation.
For those not in the mixology mix, can you explain exactly what is a molecular cocktail bar?
It's a bar using techniques popularized by “molecular gastronomy.” These techniques such as spherification, airs, foams, ice, fogs, and sous-vide will be used in drink preparation and service.
Tell us about your menu.
Alchemist aims to create a modern interpretation on classic cocktails as well as create drinks that are in a category of their own. While our “tinkered traditions” are the classics with a twist, our “signature elixirs” are unique drinks prepared by our “house alchemists.” These drinks are meant to be absolutely new and original, made with premium liquors, bitters, fresh squeezed juices and essential oils.
How do the molecular cocktails match up or pair with your molecular gastronomy?
We also feature a modern small plates menu with around 20-30 items. Our food menu focuses on bite size, molecular tastes, which complement our cocktail menu. You are not likely to find items such as our Monte Cristo Donut Holes, sous-vide egg yolk, or truffle oxtail poutine on any menu in Shanghai or in China for that matter.
You were the first molecular gastro-pub in Shanghai. How has that changed the cocktail culture here?
As the first molecular bar in Shanghai, I think we've raised the bar and really started showing people what can be done with cocktails and modern techniques. The locals are amazed.
We have definitely helped local bartenders see something outside of the classic cocktails that they are used to. I am not saying there is anything wrong with classics, but many of the drinks that we do are completely outside the box. It's nice to be able to take something that's happening everywhere else, all over the world and bring it back to Shanghai. I think we've contributed tremendously to the cocktail revolution in Shanghai.
The Alchemist is dedicated to promoting and nurturing local growth of the craft cocktail culture. We believe in education in spirits, the tradition of classics, as well as the promotion of new techniques. Our belief leads us in our commitment of education and mentorship of all local aspiring craft bartenders as well as our own.
Who designed your cocktail menu?
The cocktail menu was designed by Yao Lu, our current bar manager. Some of the drinks are also from Chris Peart and Ryan Noreiks from Australia, both who have worked here in the past. It's nice to create your own history, leaving some drinks from friends from the past and then building on that for our future.
Can you suggest molecular cuisine and cocktail pairings for each section of the cocktail menu sweet, sour, dry and bitter? Perhaps pair the Huangpu Cocktail (bitter), Tiger’s Milk (dry), Sunrise in December (sour) and the Thai Go Ren (sweet)?
Huangpu Cocktail is quite a masculine drink and quite powerful. I think it would pair really well with a meaty dish such as our Frou Frou burger which is made from 100 percent Wagyu beef, caramelized onions, tomato chutney, and savory gruyere cheese.
Tiger's Milk has a slight milkiness to it from the white chocolate liqueur and pastis. What really brings out the texture of this drink is our composed cheese plate, particularly in my opinion the flavor of the semi-aged manchego.
Sunrise in December pairs well with the Giant Crab Cake Sandwich. The crunchy texture of the crab cake along with the slight spiciness from the sriracha mayonnaise offsets the sweet and acidic flavor of the Sunrise in December.
Thai Go Ren pairs well with the Honolulu pork sliders with its slightly sweet and spicy Asian inspired flavors.
Alchemist Cocktail Kitchen, Sinan Mansions, Block 32 45 Sinan Lu, near Fuxing Zhong Lu