Son Tinh Original Ruou spoke to mixologist Nguyen Minh Tuan, who works at Mad Society, one of Hanoi’s most talked about culinary hot spots about Vietnamese cocktails. 

Vietnamese cocktails in MAD Society

MAD Society is a juxtaposition of cultures. Located on the 4th floor of the Somerset West Point serviced apartments in Hanoi’s desirable West Lake district, this fine dining restaurant —as the acronym in its name indicates — offers Modern Asian Dining with a variety of East meets West inspired cuisine and cocktails, but for all of its contemporary motifs, the restaurant itself looks to the past for its influences; from the furniture, artwork and even the waitstaff are all heavily influenced by a different era altogether…the Roaring Twenties. 1920s America culturally exploded with fashion, jazz music and art deco architecture reigning supreme.

The restaurant prides itself of its 1920s time capsule aesthetic. When dining here, one could be forgiven in thinking that they are stepping into a chapter straight out of The Great Gatsby. The glitz and glamour are not just for show however, MAD Society is renowned for offering a delectable assortment of fusion dishes, as well as special cocktails worthy of Jay Gatsby himself.

GOING SLIGHTLY MAD

“Just like how a chef expresses culture through their food, as a mixologist, I also want to convey the Vietnamese spirit through my cocktails.”

Overseeing all of MAD Society’s drinks is head-mixologist Nguyen Minh Tuan, whose Vietnamese heritage influences many of his signature cocktails. “Just like how a chef expresses culture through their food, as a mixologist, I also want to convey the Vietnamese spirit through my cocktails,” Tuan explains.

“I wanted to create a special concept where my cocktails are named after historical landmarks in Hanoi. Foreign visitors can feel the spirit of the city through my cocktails, because they are made using local ingredients.”

As we are surrounded by imagery of the 1920s, we are seated at MAD Society’s main bar. From here, we have a front row seat to watch Tuan’s mixology tricks in action. Cocktail after cocktail, we slowly start to feel ourselves taking a boozy trip back in time.

“Foreign visitors can feel the spirit of the city through my cocktails, because they are made using local ingredients.”

THE HANG THAN COCKTAIL

“Hang Than street is well known for selling Banh Com.”

First on his list is a cocktail Tuan calls Hang Than. Named after a historical street in Hanoi’s Old Quarter district, the cocktail is a subtle mix of ingredients popular in Vietnamese desserts.Tuan begins by blending vodka, coconut cream, lime juice, simple syrup, egg whites and the main ingredient, “cốm” or young rice.

“Hang Than street is well known for selling Banh Com.” Tuan explains. Banh Com, a sweet snack, which are quite popular as gifts for Tet and weddings are hand-sized cakes made using young rice and mung beans.

It is the young rice, which is known for its greenish hue, that gives the Hang Than cocktail its almost dayglo green colour. With a distinctively sweet and smooth aftertaste that only young rice can give, this cocktail is essentially an alcohol-filled version of the traditional Vietnamese dessert.

THE DINH LIET COCKTAIL

As we sip away, Tuan continues our journey. “The next cocktail is named Dinh Liet, which is also a famous street in Hanoi’s Old Quarter.” Tuan explains.
We are beginning to see a theme here. “There are many famous seafood dishes and street food stalls there. We based the flavours of the Dinh Liet cocktail on traditional Vietnamese food sold on that street.”
Using lemongrass, ginger and fresh chili, which are all crucial ingredients used in a dipping sauce common for shellfish dishes, Dinh Liet is an absolute surprise to our taste buds.
A tad spicy and sour with a warm aftertaste given by the ginger, we can see the Dinh Liet tipple being an essential companion for cool spring or winter nights.“
“We based the flavours of the Dinh Liet cocktail on traditional Vietnamese food sold on that street.”

THE KEM TRANG TIEN COCKTAIL

“I chose mung bean for my cocktail, as a way to show my appreciation for one of the most famous treats in Hanoi.”
For our last drink, Tuan brings us all the way back to our childhood. “I call this the Kem Trang Tien cocktail.” Tuan says with a smile. Kem Trang Tien is an especially famous ice cream parlour, which lures adults and children alike to their doors, even to this day.
“In the past, there were three flavours that made Trang Tien ice cream famous. Young rice, mung beans and coconut milk. The mung bean flavour was my favourite. Even now, this flavour is still the most popular among Vietnamese people and even foreign tourists. So, I chose mung bean for my cocktail, as a way to show my appreciation for one of the most famous treats in Hanoi.”
Using lemongrass, ginger and fresh chili, which are all crucial ingredients used in a dipping sauce common for shellfish dishes, Dinh Liet is an absolute surprise to our taste buds.
The Kem Trang Tien cocktail is a masterclass on how to combine the richness of cream, the bitterness of vodka, and the sweetness of mung beans to create a drink that is entirely its own. Not to mention that there is also a substantial amount of Sambuca and Baileys as well. The finishing touch is a topping of banh que (cinnamon cracker) and chocolate syrup for good measure.
“If anyone hasn’t tried Trang Tien ice cream before, they can try my Kem Trang Tien cocktail instead!” Tuan says enthusiastically.
Sure, we can have another. For us, we are grateful to MAD Society and Nguyen Minh Tuan for the delicious drinks and letting us explore his childhood recollections though his mixology mastery for just a little while longer.
“If anyone hasn’t tried Trang Tien ice cream before, they can try my Kem Trang Tien cocktail instead!”