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Intoxicating aromas: Zuma and Penhaligon’s present perfume-inspired cocktails

Zuma is known for its innovative, Japanese-inspired dishes and cocktails, taking special pride in a drinks list full of complex flavour and scent profiles — all thanks to plenty of research and experimentation going on behind the bar. This month, the bar takes its tinkering to the next sensory level via a collaboration with time-honoured London fragrance house Penhaligon’s, inspired by its newest line of fragrances, the Portraits series.

Each fragrance in the Portraits series is characterised by a different member of a fictional noble family. They each have their own exuberant personality, and all of them are hiding a dirty little secret.

For Lord George, representing the stately patriarch of the family, bar manager Arkadiusz Rybak takes the heady scents of traditional shaving soap, cigar and whisky present in the fragrance and translates it into a drink much like a Negroni: The almondy aroma of tonka bean is matched with sakura, umeshu, and a drop of ambox, or synthetic Ambergris — what gives perfume that addictive and animalistic effect — to finish. Served with a solid block of ice, it’s a masculine yet juicy cocktail thanks to the lightness of the cherry blossom and plum wine.

His wife, Lady Blanche, is an influential socialite with a fluttering floral bouquet, but her scent carries an unusual, narcotic afternote — indeed, she schemes to poison her husband for the inheritance. The challenge here was to translate floral scents into edible flavours. The drink uses a simple yet ingenious pairing of taro-infused vodka and handmade yuzu gin topped with atsukan (sake) syrup and a drop of ylang-ylang essence. The result is a transparent drink, but its surprisingly creamy, slightly sweet and has a long-lasting mouthfeel that makes you want to keep sipping. 

Their son-in-law is The Duke, a cultured man with whimsical interests, plagued by rumours that his marriage is yet to be consummated. The perfume itself is woody and leathery, with hints of gin and peppery rose. Gin and peppery rose are exactly what goes into the glass, in a take on the classic gimlet, where a pepper and rose cordial, using specially distilled peppercorn water, is blended with gin and topped with a single rose petal, martini-style.

Finally, the daughter, Duchess Rose, is an effervescent, naive character, and a twist on a mimosa helps bring her rosy, floral and bright nature to life. Mandarin purée is mixed with rose-infused vodka, topped off with Champagne and served in a flute for a sweet, romantic drink.

The Duchess Rose is also the drink that’s served during the launch date of this cocktail promotion on Valentine’s Day: Book in for a romantic dinner that evening ($2,500 per couple) and you’ll receive a complimentary cocktail, as well as a Penhaligon’s handkerchief and a fragrance sample.

All four cocktails will be available from 14 February–31 March 2017. Guests stopping by during this period can delve deeper into the stories of each character, tasting and smelling the drink that best fits your own personality. Each purchase of a Portraits cocktail (HK$110) comes with a complimentary sample of the corresponding perfume.

Zuma Bar & Lounge, 6/F, Landmark, 15 Queen’s Road Central, Hong Kong; +852 3657 6388, zumarestaurant.com

Evelyn Lok
Managing Editor
When not trying out the latest beauty and wellness trends, Evelyn is likely enjoying a perfectly balanced negroni or exploring some of Hong Kong's best new places to eat and drink. At Lifestyle Asia she covers everything from the biggest events in town to interviews with Hong Kong specialists, with topics spanning art, food and drink, health, tech, and travel.