Shuffle the Truffle: Truffle Infused Cocktails at the W Hotel in Taipei, Taiwan

The team at Our Tasty Travels was invited to the trendy W Hotel in Taipei to sample some of their newest cocktail creations made with one of my all-time favorite ingredients – truffle!

I could eat truffle on everything – breakfast, a 10 course dinner, and certainly in a dessert, so why not a cocktail?

It’s like the mixologists at the W Hotel were speaking to my heart when they created this menu of unique and trend-setting drinks. Unfortunately, they did not create them just for me, they were in honor of their one-year anniversary in February, 2012.

Shuffle the Truffle menu is available at Yen Bar on the 31st floor, which provides one of the best views of Taipei 101 in the city.  Look for seven very diverse truffle options that will appeal to nearly every type of drinker – from stiff martinis to dessert-style cocktails, everyone can enjoy a truffle cocktail at Yen.

Since sampling cocktails is hard work, we dove right in and started with the two most recommended offerings, Mr. W and Ms. W.

Ms. W and Mr. W Truffle Infused Cocktails

Mr. W

Mr. W is made with the W Hotel’s special infused truffle vodka, vinegar, martini extra dry, rosso, balsamic, and topped off with an olive.

Of the six cocktails we sampled over the course of the evening, Mr. W offers the most pronounced truffle flavor. It’s a classic martini with a definite masculine appearance, but I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to order one…or two.

Mr. W is a classic martini style cocktail with a strong truffle flavor

Ms. W

Ms. W is made with W infused truffle vodka, fresh lemon juice, fresh strawberries, vanilla sugar, rose liqueur and rose sparkling champagne. With its bright pink color, this cocktail was designed for the female crowd that frequents Yen. It was definitely a drink I would order again, but the truffle taste was not nearly as pronounced as with Mr. W.

Ms. W even has a rose petal inside the cocktail

Beautiful sugar rim on Ms. W truffle infused cocktail

Truffle Mary

Hello Sunday morning cocktail – truffle style. The Truffle Mary is made with W infused truffle vodka, tomato juice, fresh lemon juice, old balsamic vinegar, black olive, black pepper and truffle salt.

This one would definitely take care of a rough Sunday morning start and is not a bloody mary for the weak of heart.  The only disappointment on this one for me was the lack of truffle salt on the rim.  According to our host, the salt is in the drink with the pepper. Personally, I would prefer to try it on the rim as I think it would enhance the truffle vodka flavor immensely.

Truffle Mary and Truffle Vodka Fizz at Yen Bar

Truffle Vodka Mary cocktail

Truffle Vodka Fizz

This more feminine option is made with W infused truffle vodka, cherry brandy, fresh lime and sugarcane, served carbonated. This was a refreshing cocktail and had a nice subtle sweet flavor with a hint of truffle.

Truffle Vodka Fizz and Truffle Vodka Mary cocktails

Truffle Vodka Fizz cocktail

Truffle Pie

One of the last cocktails we sampled was the Truffle Pie, made with W infused truffle vodka, fresh cucumber juice, apple liqueur, apple syrup, and fresh lime juice.  Served in a lowball glass, this was definitely one I could’ve ordered two or three of. It was an interesting blend of earthy, sweet, and sour all rolled into one cocktail.

Truffle Pear and Truffle Pie cocktails at Yen Bar

Truffle Pie served in a lowball glass

Truffle Pear

The last cocktail on our tasting was the Truffle Pear made with W infused truffle vodka, pear liqueur, fresh lime juice, fresh pear, and white sugar. This was in a martini glass and another one I questioned on whether it should’ve had sugar around the rim.  The white sugar was said to be in the drink itself, but I honestly expected it to be a touch sweeter.  Still quite nice and a great choice for those who are not fans of overly sweet or strong drinks.

Truffle Pear cocktail served in a martini glass

Truffle Coco

This is the dessert cocktail and the only one on the truffle menu we did not try.  It is made with W infused truffle vodka, orange liqueur, white chocolate sauce, and milk.  After sampling all the others in between a large meal at Yen, we just couldn’t find the room to hold one more cocktails, although I plan to go back and knock this last one off the list!

Each of the cocktails we sampled are 590 NT each (about $20 US each). The Truffle Coco is 690NT. These are obviously not inexpensive as far as drinks go, so perhaps not a drink you might order two or three of each night, but certainly order at least one. The premium ingredients and housemade truffle infused vodka is definitely worth a try.  The W Hotel has done a fabulous job of creating a specialized cocktail menu that is proving to be a hit with Taipei’s in-crowd.

Yen Bar’s tapas menu has increased since we were there shortly after the grand opening last year.  Menu items currently available from 11 a.m. until midnight include:

French fries, assorted dips, 220 NT
Banana cheese spring rolls, 300NT
Sauteed taro with sugar, 180NT
Plum glazed baby carrots, candied kumquat, 220NT
Sesame crisp prawn mousse toast, 300NT
Red braised beef tenderloin, brisket noodle soup, 480NT
Barbecue beef, chicken, prawn skewers, 680NT
Variety of stewed pork belly, seaweed, eggs, and bean curd, 360NT
Crispy chicken boxer wings with dips, 320NT
Kurobuta pork burger, 360NT
Crispy squid with five spice salt, crystal fish, 600NT
Golden sesame seafood cigars, 280NT
Abalone mushroom skewers, duo cheese, 220NT

We did not sample any of the bar menu items, as we were guests of the W Hotel at Yen’s restaurant in between cocktail sampling. The beef tenderloin and brisket noodle soup came highly recommended so definitely on the list to try next time.

View of Taipei 101 from VIP style lounge room at Yen Bar

View of Yen Bar from our little VIP lounge area

Yen Bar at the W Hotel in Taipei
10 Zhongziao East Road Sec 5
Xinyi District
Open: 11:30am – 12:00am
Website: Starwood Hotels W Hotel in Taipei

We were guests of the W Hotel for our cocktail sampling and dinner and, while a portion of our evening was comped, all views and opinions expressed are our own.

New Singapore Sling Cocktail Offerings at the Raffles Hotel Long Bar

Late last week, I found myself faced with a surprising dilemma, an unplanned four day weekend!  I knew that I had Tuesday, Feb 28 off for the 228 Memorial Day Holiday, but did not know I also had off on the Monday before it.  Realizing this only on Friday, I made a quick call to my sister in Singapore, and booked a last minute flight down for Saturday and Sunday.

As this was such a short notice visit, the plans of course revolved around the existing schedule for her and my niece, which included my niece’s Saturday afternoon art class downtown near the Singapore Art Museum.  What were we going to do for the 90 minutes while she was in her class? As the museum is located right by the Bras Basah MRT station, it didn’t take long to come to a good solution…my sister had lived in Singapore for two years, and had yet to try an original Singapore Sling from the Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel, where it was invented in 1915, only three blocks away!

A few short minutes later, my sister, my niece’s nanny and I had arrived at this grand colonial-style hotel and made our way up to the second floor entry for the Long Bar, and were faced with quite a crowd!  Seems Saturday afternoon may not be the best time to try to make a quick visit to the Long Bar, especially as the second floor bar was not open this day.  We could have sat at the bar or outside on the veranda, but it was only a short wait for a table, so we opted for that, and less than 10 minutes later, we had our seats.

The original plan was for a trio of original Singapore Sling cocktails, however, on taking a quick peek at the menu, we were greeted with a surprising assortment of new sling cocktails on the menu!  In addition to the classic original, the following six items now appear on the menu, all at S$26 each, the same price as an Original Singapore Sling:

  • Spring Sling – Apple Vodka, Apple Sourz, DOM, Cointreau, Blue Curacao, Pineapple & Orange Juice
  • Summer Sling – Bacardi Limon, Lychee Liqueurs, DOM, Cointreau, Mango, Lychee & Orange Juice
  • Autumn Sling – Vodka, Creme de Casis, Apple & Pineapple Juice, Monin Casis, Lemon Wedges, Blackberries
  • Winter Sling - Vanilla Vodka, Peach Schnapps, Cointreau, DOM, Pineapple Juice, Pineapple Puree
  • Tropical Sling - Bacardi, Cherry Heering, Passion Fruit Puree, Lime Juice, Cointreau, DOM, Grenadine Syrup, Champagne
  • Courtyard Sling – Gin, DOM, Lychee Liqueurs, Mango Juice, Grenadine Syrup, Ginger Beer
Sling Options at the Long Bar, Raffles Hotel, Singapore

Sling Options at the Long Bar, Raffles Hotel, Singapore

Of course, needing to experiment, we had to go for three of the new cocktails (and one original to split…for tradition’s sake, and so my sister could finally say she’s had one here).  Our orders placed, a few minutes of munching on the great Thai peanuts (and making quite a mess with the pile of shells we left on the floor), and we soon had our drinks before us.

Peanuts at the Long Bar, Raffles Hotel, Singapore

Peanuts at the Long Bar, Raffles Hotel, Singapore

First thing to note, only the Original Singapore Sling comes in the Original Singapore Sling glass.  All others come in an unlabeled glass.  Also to note, nowhere on the menu did I see the option of ordering the Singapore Sling with the ability to keep the collector’s glass as was available in the past, but perhaps this is meant to have you visit the gift shop on the first floor where you can buy the glass and other Raffles Hotel souvenirs.

Original Singapore Sling, Long Bar, Raffles Hotel, Singapore

Original Singapore Sling, Long Bar, Raffles Hotel, Singapore

Of the non-standard slings, the Tropical Sling came out first, much faster than the others.  Not sure if this meant this was pre-made like the Original, or just easier to make.  This drink was quite tasty, but did not quite have that signature Sling taste.  Though it was quite nice, with the passion-fruit and champagne.

Tropical Sling, Long Bar, Raffles Hotel, Singapore

Tropical Sling, Long Bar, Raffles Hotel, Singapore

The Courtyard Sling was very tasty, though perhaps a bit strong.  Again, not a very traditional taste in line with the original sling, but one I would order again.

Courtyard Sling, Long Bar, Raffles Hotel, Singapore

Courtyard Sling, Long Bar, Raffles Hotel, Singapore

The Summer Sling tasted quite similar to the original Singapore Sling, and seemed to also be the most popular option, aside from the original, that I saw people ordering as well.  This one also took the longest to receive, not sure if it was a lost order due to it being so crowded, or just took a while to make.  Very pleasing flavors, and very easy to drink.  Perhaps dangerously so!

Summer Sling, Long Bar, Raffles Hotel, Singapore

Summer Sling, Long Bar, Raffles Hotel, Singapore

Overall, I have to say, the new Slings are rather enjoyable.  I did not see the Tiger Lily on the menu any longer, so I’m not sure if it is still an option, or if it has been totally replaced by these new offerings.  If that is the case, however, I’m happy with the new flavors on the menu.

St. Regis Hotel, New York City: American Birthplace of the Bloody Mary Cocktail

Although the history of the Bloody Mary invention is somewhat disputed, most people agree that the St. Regis in New York City is the American birthplace of this signature cocktail, which they call the “Red Snapper”.  This credit goes to Fernand Petiot, a bartender at the St. Regis Hotel, who originally came up with the drink while working at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, France in the early 1920′s.  He moved to the U.S. in 1925 and became head bartender at the St. Regis in 1934, bringing his creation with him.

The St. Regis Hotel in New York City, recognized as the American birthplace of the "Red Snapper" cocktail, or the Bloddy Mary. #ourtastytravels

With only a mere 48 hours to hit some iconic NYC food stops — combined with the snow on the ground and what seemed like hurricane force winds when we landed on Saturday night — I had to choose my picks wisely.  On the top of the list was trying the famed Red Snapper aka Bloody Mary at the King Cole Bar inside the St. Regis.

Sadly, packing for a six week trip that included scuba diving in the Caribbean and two formal nights on a ship didn’t leave a lot of room for heavy winter clothes for a couple days on the East Coast.  In my last minute efforts to pack, I only brought a couple pairs of shoes — flip flops, open toe high heel shoes and white sneakers — all “perfect” choices for NYC in the snow.  Brilliant!

Surprisingly, we weren’t instantly booted by the tuxedo donning doormen at the St. Regis (thank you!), but I still wouldn’t recommend showing up in white sneakers! :-)

The King Cole Bar sits to the left of the main lobby doors, behind the Astor Court.  We had arrived around noon (about 1/2 hour after opening) on Tuesday and were surprised to see it fairly crowded, with some tables already finished with food and drinks.  We snagged a quiet table for two in the corner — behind a pillar — in hopes I would not be too distracting when I snapped my photos. (Apologize in advance for the grainy & fuzzy photos in this post — did not want to use the flash in such an intimate and crowded environment.)

Do you know how the upscale lounge got its name?  A giant 25 foot mural hangs behind the bar — painted by renowned 20th century painter Maxfield Parrish.  After making its way around a few NYC hotels, it found its permanent home in the 1930′s at the St. Regis.  The mural is definitely the focal point of the bar — there’s absolutely no chance of missing it, unless you walk with your head always to the ground.

Giant mural is backdrop of bar at King Cole Bar at the St. Regis #ourtastytravels

Giant mural is backdrop of bar at King Cole Bar at the St. Regis

Although a regal bar, the ambiance was comfortable.  A family sat to our left chatting about their day and potential menu choices, while an older, astute gentleman sat at the bar, enjoying a hearty breakfast.  Shortly thereafter, a single woman came in to the bar and both the gentleman and bartender greeted her by first name.  These were definitely the New York locals in the know — the ones who escape for a lunch getaway at their favorite haunt, know the best spots in the City, and have built a rapport with the staff.

Foodwise, the bar menu is small, but provides a good sampling of things to try.  The drink menu is comprehensive, but you are probably not going to find Red Snapper or Bloody Mary listed on it.  Ask the server for a Red Snapper and you will be well-taken care of.

The Red Snapper comes served in a stemmed wine style glass.  Don’t underestimate its size — this drink packs a punch (just ask the table next to us who needed more tomato juice added).  Thankfully, we had ordered the Mediterranean sampler ($19) that came with prosciutto, aged cheese, olives, and a few pieces of toasted baguette.

Mediterranean Plate at King Cole Bar

According to legend, the original Red Snapper recipe does not have horseradish — instead, the bottom of the shaker includes four large dashes of salt, two dashes of black pepper, two dashes of cayenne pepper, and a layer of Worcestershire sauce.  A dash of lemon juice is added along with some cracked ice, two ounces of vodka and two ounces of thick tomato juice, then you shake, strain, and pour.

Red Snapper aka Bloody Mary at St. Regis #ourtastytravels

Red Snapper aka Bloody Mary at St. Regis

Since I had a plane to catch later in the afternoon, we only had time for one drink — a smart idea given that Brett had to drive me to the airport as well.  We asked for the bill and were not far off in our guess at the price of the drinks — the Red Snapper will set you back $20 each.  It’s actually not too bad for NYC and a luxury hotel bar.  And hey, you get a souvenir postcard of the King Cole mural when the server brings your bill.

King Cole Bar at the St. Regis Hotel, New York City:
Two East 55th Street, at Fifth Avenue
New York, New York, 10022
Hours: Monday – Thursday 11:30am – 1:00am; Friday – Saturday 11:30am – 2:00 am, Sunday 12:00pm – 12:00am.  Bar menu is available until midnight.

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