A black-sesame piña colada at O Mandarin in Hicksville.

A black-sesame piña colada at O Mandarin in Hicksville. Credit: Brittainy Newman

The tofu skin appetizer at O Mandarin in Hicksville pulls no punches when it comes to chili-driven heat. The Sichuan peppers in the dish wash across your tongue with the smolder of a falling star. 

For lovers of the burn, it’s probably bliss, though at turns it calls for a cooling chaser, something to bring your palate back down to earth. Enter creamy sips of a piña colada, albeit one threaded with earthy swirls of black sesame.

“For some of the things that are spicy, you want a little bit of respite, so we’re always looking for things that echo the dish or complement the dish,” said beverage consultant Doug Brickel, who spent time this spring conceiving a cocktail menu for O Mandarin to pair with the bold Chinese dishes of chef Eric Gao. 

After opening in February, O Mandarin owner Peter Liu tapped Brickel to create cocktails for the ambitious Chinese restaurant, whose cozy bar carries cinematic vibes. At the start of this year, Brickel had closed his long-running Rockville Centre bar Cork & Kerry, where there were few constraints on cocktail ideation. Trying to use the same level of creativity knowing there was a menu of dishes the drinks would be paired with was a fun and different approach. 

Gao’s dishes are both robust and finely detailed, from the fiery tofu skin (an appetizer) to steamed fish heads with fermented chilies and tea-smoked duck. The cocktails aim to meet the food halfway through novel uses of cream, citrus and uncommon flavors and aperitifs. 

A Mount Fuji at O Mandarin in Hicksville.

A Mount Fuji at O Mandarin in Hicksville. Credit: Brittainy Newman

For the black-sesame piña colada, Brickel blends coconut cream with pulverized black sesame, then mixes that with Don Q Cristal rum and a splash of cream for cooling succor against O Mandarin’s chile-rich dishes. “It has a little bit of dairy and a little bit of fat from the coconut to help save you from some of the spicy peppercorns,” Brickel said.

The bar infuses Salers, an herbaceous French aperitif, with jasmine tea for a delicate, astringent riff on the Negroni. O Mandarin’s version of a gin and tonic, called Mount Fuji, is made with Japanese gin and a hint of coconut liqueur, then garnished with pea greens. And the bar’s spin on a Mai Tai (called O Mai Tai here) introduces floral pandan into the traditional mix of rum, orgeat (an almond syrup) and lime.

As the restaurant learns the tastes of its clientele, the bar menu is still evolving, Brickel said. In mid-May, he added a saketini made with ume plum liquor, a sake-spiked sangria with yuzu and ginger, and a version of an old-fashioned sweetened with simple syrup the bar makes from water gathered during the kitchen’s tea-smoking of ducks.

O Mandarin is at 600 W. Old Country Rd., Hicksville; 516-622-6666, omandarin.com 

Top Stories

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months