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Restaurants without a hard liquor license, and only beer and wine offerings, have to be creative with their cocktails. For them, using low ABV (alcohol by volume) spirits, like sake and vermouth, can be a game changer. The cocktail menu at new East Village restaurant Chao Chao stands out because not only are varied flavor profiles represented but you would never know that the drinks are low ABV. “We never wanted our cocktails to feel like dumbed down versions of full-proof drinks,” says Chao Chao’s owner and chef Stephan Brezinsky. “They are great drinks because they are refreshing, complex and have tropical or exotic flavors. They’re the kind of drinks that you could drink several of easily, not just because they’re delicious but because the lower ABV means you won’t get drunk quickly.”

Below, Brezinsky shares his three favorite cocktails from the bar menu at Chao Chao.

Silver Sliver

“Kaffir Lime is a very distinct Southeast Asian flavor,” says Stephan Brezinsky. “Combined with the creaminess of the egg white you get the same harmony that you would find in Southeast Asian food (coconut milk and kaffir) but without any of the richness and heaviness. Despite such a few ingredients this is a surprisingly complex drink.”


  • – 2 ounces Dolin Blanc
  • – 2 Kaffir lime leaves
  • – ¾ ounce lemon juice
  • – ¾ ounce simple syrup
  • – 1 egg white


Shake ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and pour liquid directly into a martini glass.

Police Action

“What makes this drink so great is that it’s a take on a South Side Fizz, a classic cocktail made with gin,” says Brezinsky. “However in this case with the addition of blueberries and sparkling sake you get a very balanced drink with a tropical feel that is easy to sip all night (and day).”


  • – 1 ounce Blueberry Cordial
  • – 1 ounce Tokki Soju
  • – ¾ ounce lime juice
  • – ¾ ounce simple syrup
  • – 8-10 blueberries
  • – 6 mint leaves
  • – ½-¾ ounce Joto Junmai sake (we carbonate it in house, you can make your own with a SodaStream)


Muddle the berries and mint and combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice, shake and serve liquid in a collins glass. Top with sparkling Sake until glass is full.

The Escape

“This is one of those cocktails that on paper sounds really weird, but once you take one sip you’re hooked,” says Brezinsky. “Both the coconut water and pineapple sambal are fermented in house, which gives them both unique and powerful flavors that you don’t see often in cocktails. This is like an amped up pina colada.”


  • – 2 ½ ounce Joto Nigori Sake
  • – 1 ounce fermented coconut water
  • – ¾ ounce house made pineapple sambal (see recipe below)
  • – ¾ ounce simple syrup
  • – ¼ ounce lime juice


Shake ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and pour liquid directly into a tumbler/low-ball glass.

Pineapple Sambal

  • – 1 large pineapple cut into chunks (approx 2 lbs.)
  • – 2 tablespoon salt
  • – 5 ounce red bird chilies (adjust up or down to desired level of spice)
  • – 1 tablespoon lime juice


Wash and sterilize a non-reactive container with a lid. Puree the pineapple, chilies, and salt together. Cover tightly and allow to ferment at room temperature for 4-5 days.