The concept of a medicinal cocktail is nothing new, but the Traditional Chinese Medicine cocktail menu at Tiger Fork in Washington, D.C., goes way beyond the hot toddy. In fact, there’s not a hot toddy in sight. Instead guests find beverages that mix liquor and traditional medicinal herbs.
Owners Greg Algie and Nathan Beauchamp opened Tiger Fork in 2017 after a trip to Hong Kong alerted Algie to the need. Originally the concept was Chinese takeout and delivery, which D.C. sorely lacks. But after visiting Chinatowns in other U.S. cities, the idea expanded to a full Hong Kong kitchen.
“We knew we wanted to incorporate Chinese medicine in the concept from the very beginning,” says Ian Fletcher, Tiger Fork’s beverage director. “We were at a bar during a research trip that had stylized itself as sort of an apothecary. It was then that we had a sort of eureka moment.”
The cocktail menu is an homage to Hong Kong’s world-renowned cocktail scene, celebrated with a nod to traditional Chinese culture—Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM, is practiced around the world.
“For me, it is very important that we recognize that we have a lot to learn and that we respect the traditions,” Algie says. “Balancing the medicinal attributes and creating a tasty cocktail takes a lot of collaboration with Nathan, Ian, traditional Chinese medicinal advisors, chefs and bartenders to make sure we create an enjoyable drink.”
The drinks are not necessarily geared toward pairing with Tiger Fork’s cuisine. Fletcher says the medicinal ingredients themselves are “unsavory,” and the team spent a long time working to make them palatable.
“We use a lot of acids and citrus to disguise the flavors of herbs and roots, which just sort of naturally works with Asian cuisine,” he says. “Not to say that the TCM cocktails do not pair with our food. … We have other drinks on menu that are designed to complement our food. The TCM concept is the base of our bar concept and has definitely been a draw for the restaurant as a whole.”
While a menu like this takes education, the results have been rewarding, and the restaurant’s buzz has helped.
“We’ve been open now for a while, and there have been several articles about our concept. This has helped a lot, as people kind of know what to expect when they show up now,” he says. “We also have a lot of great regulars that bring in friends and pretty much do all the explaining for staff.”