In this post, I’ll give you a drink recipe and the story behind it. Because all good drinks come with – or are the direct cause of – stories. The asian pear cocktail my friend Sam and I stirred up last weekend is a perfect example of both scenarios.
THE ADDICTION BEGINS
In grad school (round 1), I was lucky enough visit Korea several times and even lived in Seoul for three months as an intern. The time I spent there gave me an insatiable hunger for all flavors Korean (ok, maybe not all – I’m looking at you extra-fishy kimchi). Fortunately in the Chicago area, there are lots of opportunities to get a Korean food fix, whether it’s a little hole in the wall in the city or a big suburban grocery store like H Mart.
I don’t entertain very often, but when I do, there’s a good chance I’ll work something Korean(ish) into the affair. It might be an improvised ddok mandu guk (rice cake & dumpling soup) or kimchijeon (kimchi pancakes). Or I’ll serve crunchy snacks (that may or may not involve squid and peanut butter) with soju-based drinks. I love Korean food, and so should everyone else! (But hey, it’s still a free country, so I won’t force the issue.)
Last weekend, my teammate, Sara, organized a hockey house crawl (because so many of us live within a 10 minute walk of one another). I was one of the hosts. Each house was to have a “signture drink.” Take a wild guess where I found the inspiration for mine.
CRUNCH CRUNCH PEAR REDUX
A few years ago, my friend Sam and I co-hosted an epic Japanese / Korean-inspired party. Think huge platters of sushi (from the amazing, Korean-owned Dempster Fish Market), fried mandu (dumplings), giant manga posters, crunchy snacks, fruit juices with cute names, and K-pop… and booze. I hope that doesn’t sound like some weird appropriation thing; we just love all that stuff and wanted to share it with our friends.
One of the cutely named juices was called Crunch Crunch Pear. I’d falled in love with it when I was in Korea (and couldn’t read the ingredients). It’s a dee-lightful blend of asian pear juice concentrate, high fructose corn syrup , water, and preservatives (get over it; it’s awesome).
I’d bought a twelve-pack of mini cans, not really having a plan for it – other than to drink it. Sam grabbed one and said, “I bet this would make a good martini” and got to work with the cocktail shaker. Thus, the Crunch Crunch Pear martini was born. It ended up being quite popular with the guests. In fact, it was a large contributing factor to everyone getting drunk off their asses, so that was a success.
Sam and I have been talking about having another party like that ever since, but it has yet to happen. Then we started planning the house crawl, and everyone started talking about their signature drinks. I was just going to offer beer and cider, but then I remembered the Crunch Crunch Pear and enlisted Sam to be my guest bartender.
My house was number 2 on the crawl, however. We decided we’d better adapt the martini for day drinking so that people actually had a chance of making it to house number 5.
So now we come to the original point of this post: my global at heart moment. This actually happened while I was shopping for the drink ingredients. I was out in the ‘burbs visiting another friend, so I decided to stop at the Glenview H-Mart, not as big as the one in Niles, but still with plenty of Korean goodies.
Steeling myself against all the Korean deliciousness around me, I collected only the items on my list. I wasn’t going home right away so I couldn’t buy anyting requiring refrigeration. Reluctantly, I passed up the kimchi, side dishes, marinated meats, and sweet corn ice cream sandwiches (!). I even managed to say no to the fancy packets of ramyun (even though those could outlive a twinkie without a fridge).
Instead, when I joined the check-out line, my basket contained
- fresh ginger
- a three-pack of huge asian pears
- a box melon sandwich cookies (I caved on that one; they were just so… green)
- two bags of crunchy snacks (drinking requires starch)
- four big bottles of asian pear juice (sadly, it was not Crunch Crunch, but same basic thing)
HAVING A MOMENT
As usual, I was the conspicuous, non-Korean minority in H-Mart’s checkout line. Everyone was getting antsy because the line was long and not moving very fast. The woman (standing very close) behind me sort of peeked around and gestured at the excessive amount of pear juice in my basket.
“You like that stuff, huh?” she asked, with a Korean accent.
“Oh yeah,” I said. “It’s pretty good.”
“It’s so sweet!” she said, “My son likes it, but I think it’s too sweet.”
“Yeah, it is kind of sweet. But it’s not too bad when you cut it with vodka.” That sounded normal to me until I realized it didn’t, actually. So, a little embarrassed, I tried to explain, “I’m having a party and making drinks with it.”
She gave me a slightly amused look and then continued looking through my basket.
“You like Korean food, huh?”
“Yeah, I love it! I lived there for a little while so I tried a lot of the food.” And then we proceded to chit chat about where I’d lived, what I’d eaten, yadda yadda.
When it was my turn to check out, I walked to the register past a refrigerator and, somewhat self-consciously, grabbed a giant bottle of soju.
The woman, who was still watching me, “Ah yes, soju,” and gave me a little smile.
Then I paid for my groceries as Secret Agent Man (heh) played on the store’s sound system. Out in the parking lot, my new friend was already loading her car and waved a smiling good-bye to me. Then I got into my own car and immediately tore into the box of melon cookies before heading on to my next stop.
Thus, I got my Korean fix and shared a global at heart moment with a friendly stranger. I’d love to know what all that looked like from her perspective.
EPILOGUE & ASIAN PEAR COCKTAIL RECIPE
The drinks – and the house crawl overall – were a success! (Only two spills… at my place…) Sam has her own secret recipe (involving vodka) for what we ended up drinking, but here’s my version for those who might want to party along at home.
I don’t usually write recipes (first time!) so bear with me. I didn’t actually intend to write it down until my friend texted me after the party and asked how to make the drink. Also, I was too busy hosting (or tipsy) to take pictures, but I’m sure you can use your imagination.
- Ice cubes
- Ginger (optional)
- Asian pear juice
- Club soda
- Lime (optional)
- Asian pear to garnish / eat
- Ginger ice cubes: At Sam’s suggestion, I grated some ginger and froze it into my ice cubes ahead of time, just to be fancy. As the ice melts, you’ll get a little ginger flavor in your drink. You can use regular ice cubes, if you want.
- Ginger-infused soju: A few days before the party, I peeled and chopped up some ginger, threw it into a mason jar, and poured some soju on top. Then I put it in the refrigerator and let it sit there until the party. Regular soju will work just fine, too.
- Lime: cut a lime into wedges so you can squeeze it more easily.
Mix the drink
Think of the liquid as 5 parts: 2 soju, 2 asian pear juice, 1 club soda. Adjust the total volume of liquid for the size of your cup.
- Get a plastic cup (clear or the red Solo variety, whatever); if you’re feeling sophisticated, use a glass.
- Put in a few ice cubes (3-4)
- Pour 2 parts soju onto the ice
- Then pour in 2 parts asian pear juice
- Squeeze in a little lime
- Top with 1 part club soda
- Garnish with a slice of asian pear
- Drink it… not too fast!
Wait, What’s a Global at Heart Moment?
In case you need a refresher, my working definition of a “Global at Heart Moment” is “an instant when cultures (gently) collide, leading to a new understanding, an interpersonal connection (however brief), or simply a smile.” For more explanation, read my introductory post here.
Want to have more Global at Heart moments of your own? Let me help you with a personalized travel plan.
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