Featured Bartender: Jason Lam
Jason Lam, the Head Bartender at Zuma in Boston, recently won the 2023 Boston Bartender Battle, competing against contestants from top restaurants throughout the city.
His winning cocktail, the Thai ChiliVesper made with tequila and mezcal(see recipe below), was inspired by his personal drinking experiences at home, as well as witnessing the evolution of Boston cocktail trends.“I was never a huge fan of tequila or mezcal, and I rarely made a tequila cocktail that wasn’t a margarita,”Lam says. “But as tequila grew in popularity, and I grew as a bartender,I fully embraced the change and constantly looked for ways to innovate a spirit that was so attached to shots and margaritas.”Playing off of the spicy margarita trend, Lam’s idea for the Thai Chili Vesper was to create a spicy martini, with an Asian twist.
Having worked in several Asian-themed restaurants, he noticed that Asian inspired cocktails tend to lean more Japanese, so beingVietnamese, he wanted to incorporate some Southeast Asian elements.“The moment came to me when I saw some Thai chili peppers growing in my mother’s garden and I picked a bundle to experiment, resulting in a pretty spicy week for me. I felt like the chilies played perfectly with the cocktail and given that Boston has such a huge number of Thai and Vietnamese restaurants, the flavor would be familiar toBostonians. The added touch of vanilla helps round out the spice,” he says.