I Likey the Lychee
Do you know what a lychee is? I sure didn’t. It shows up in cocktail recipes here and there, often listed as “canned lychee,” but my grocery stores had no such thing in the canned fruit/vegetable aisle. I had written those drinks off as too obscure for my feeble cocktailing efforts when I found a container of lychees in the refrigerated fruit section at Trader Joe’s. Well, hello! Not one to resist a new drink ingredient, of course I needed to try them out.
Which presented another problem: How does one prepare or eat a lychee? They have thin but crispy shells that do not appear appetizing. Once peeled, the fruit looks like an eyeball (and here I made a tactical error by showing my kids this, thereby guaranteeing that no way in hell would they taste it); a juicy, lightly fragrant eyeball, but still. And hidden in the center is a hard nut that looks like a black bean.
Eventually I decided to just muddle the fruit part and strain out the juice, a pretty easy task. I stirred up this recipe for the Lychee Rum Swizzle, and it made me a lychee lover.
Lychee Rum Swizzle1 1/2 oz rum 1/2 oz Velvet Falernum 1/2 oz lychee fruit juice (about 3 lychees) 3/4 oz lime juice 1/4 oz simple syrup (my addition) 2 dashes Peyschauds bitters
Peel lychee fruit, then tear juicy fruit away from inner nut. Muddle fruit (about 3 lychees) to yield 1/2 oz juice. Add all ingredients to a highball filled with crushed ice, then swizzle with a bar spoon until glass is frosty. Note: I changed the original recipe slightly because I had only fresh lychee fruit and not canned with syrup, so I added the simple syrup to balance the lime juice.
Swizzle drinks hail from Caribbean islands, where bartenders rub the handle of a bar spoon in between their hands – much like a scout starting a fire with sticks – in order to rapidly mix and chill the glass. Velvet Falernum, also hailing from the Caribbean, is a sweet liqueur tasting of cloves and spices. It is also great mixed with club soda and lime for a quick refresher, and non-alcoholic versions of falernum are available.
After doing a little lychee research, I’ve learned they are from China and therefore more common in Asian cooking. Fresh lychees are not typical around here, so in the future I might have better luck finding canned lychee in the Asian section of the store. If you find some, try out this drink. It is well worth muddling a few eyeballs.