It was the fall of 2002 and Asia Society New York was about to hold its first Leo Bar event — a night of mingling with friends, enjoying delicious drinks, meeting new people and roaming around Asia Society Museum to explore all the magnificent artwork.
But how could we add a touch of flair to the Leo Bar? That's the question that came to the mind of Hesh Sarmalkar, Director of Events and Visitor Services at Asia Society New York.
"That's when I came up with the idea of the Leotini," says Sarmalkar. "I thought, people will already be in surroundings that represent Asia. So why not have a signature drink that captures the essence of Asia?"
The idea to call it a Leo Bar and nickname the drink leotini came from the leogryph, Asia Society's logotype symbol — a mythical creature with a combined anatomy of a lion and a griffin.
While the Leo Bar menu now features leotinis in an array of exotic flavors such as mango, passionfruit and guava, the original leotini featured lychees, often described as a rare and sub-tropical Asian fruit and also considered a symbol of love and romance in Chinese culture. What makes the classic leotini different from a traditional lychee martini is that instead of using lychee liqueur, the recipe calls for triple sec, which adds a citrus note to the drink.
"It's sweet and tangy and tastes very refreshing and exotic," says Sarmalkar.
In the video above, we take a step-by-step look at how to make Asia Society's signature leotini.
Meanwhile, if you're in the mood for a classic leotini, join us at Asia Society New York on Friday, May 3 for a celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month where the signature drink of the night will be ... you guessed it ... a leotini!
3 oz. vodka
2 oz. triple sec
3 oz. lychee juice
Orchid or mint leaves for garnish (optional)
Scoop some ice into a glass.
Add the vodka, triple sec and lychee juice.
Fit the top of the glass with a metal shaker.
Fit a drink strainer on top of the glass with liquid.
Strain the drink into a martini glass.
Add lychees and garnish to the martini glass.