When it comes to making drinks, Linda Q. Chu is a somewhat of a Muhammad Ali. She lacks the inflated ego, but her drinks are known to "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee."
Nearly every cocktail, martini and saketini on the drink menu she created for Sens Asian Tapas & Sake Bar is so delicious and well-balanced that you hardly notice the booze, that is, until it's too late.
"People will start downing a martini really quick," Chu says, "not realizing how strong it is until half an hour or an hour later, and that's when it hits them and things get a little silly."
Chu frequently infuses vodka and shochu, a Japanese vodka, with fresh fruit for about 10 days. It may take the edge off the boozy taste, but the alcohol content remains strong.
Another reason the drinks at Sens are so sneaky is their high-quality ingredients. The specialty drinks are top shelf and the cheapest vodka offered is Svedka. The drinks are made with fresh fruit, ginger or whatever the non-alcoholic ingredients may be. These creations run a couple dollars more than one is generally accustomed to downtown ($10 per martini, $11 per saketini), but Chu believes in high quality over low cost.
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"You get what you pay for here," she says. "All of our drinks are premium quality and we're not stingy on the alcohol part, so I think our drinks are priced accordingly."
This little firecracker isn't even on the menu yet, but it will be once Chu presents Sens' new, extended drink menu in about a week. The Sweet Chili: 1½ oz. pineapple-infused vodka 1 oz. crushed Thai red chilies A splash of Thai chili-infused shochu A splash of pineapple juice A pinch of red pepper powder
Crush the chilies in the bottom of the glass (the more you crush them, the hotter your drink will be). Fill the glass with ice. Add the pineapple-infused vodka (The folks at Sens infuse theirs with fresh fruit for a week and a half) then splash with shochu and pineapple juice. Sprinkle with red pepper powder.
This drink gets hotter the longer it stands. Leisurely sippers, you've been warned.