Brian Tan's dessert bar is the talk of the town. Here's why it works

Brian Tan's dessert bar is the talk of the town. Here's why it works

This one goes out to the dessert lovers in the audience. Forget wine or coffee, Tan dishes up his rules for pairing dessert with cocktails
Brian Tan
Steer away from something chocolately and go with a dairy-based dessert like cheese cake when pairing with hof's Cacao Cocktail.

“Anyone can do wine, so we wanted to carry a unique pairing with our desserts.”

So says Brian Tan of his new dessert bar, hof, in Puxi.

It's these pairings of desserts and cocktails that has quickly elevated hof into the talk of the dessert-eating town.

He's spent some 18 years putting together some of the best desserts Shanghai's sugar-loving masses have tasted at his House of Flour. But what about the drinks?

“We decided to focus on 10 classic cocktails and three to five creative cocktails that represent Shanghai,” explains Tan. “Like in the kitchen, a good recipe is important, but we stress skill and high-quality ingredients, that’s what makes the difference.”

According to Tan, whether you're checking out the hof drinks list or planning your own dessert dinner party, there are a few overarching concepts to pairing that help bring out the best in your dessert and drink combo.

Tan’s cardinal rule -- cocktails and desserts need to complement each other, not compete

Brian Tan’s rule no. 1: Pay attention to acidity

The drink that most represents Shanghai on the hof menu is the Shanghai Mei Mei (RMB 55). Made of vodka, wax berry juice, rose syrup, fresh-pressed lime juice and a ginger cube -- it walks a fine line between sweet, sour and fiery -- just how Tan wanted it.

“In Shanghai, a mei mei is a little sister but also a pretty girl. Shanghai girls can be sweet, but if they’re angry they can also be as fierce as fire,” explains Tan. “That’s the Shanghainese girl that the drink embodies: sour, sweet and fiery.”

“The wax berry is only in China which is something I was looking for, and the high acidity of the berry goes well with chocolate desserts, and vodka goes well with everything.”

Tan’s Mei Mei pairing recommendation: Chocolate truffles.

Brian Tan’s rule no. 2: Complement, don't compete

Many people have memories of walking through the French Concession taking in the sweet smell of the Osmanthus blossoms. This flower being such a representative part of Shanghai, Tan decided to put it in his cocktails.

With such a light, flowery drink, Tan says you need to be careful and make sure the dessert doesn’t weigh the taste down.

“Osmathus [RMB 55] has a lighter taste so it goes well with fruit dessert,” says Tan. “In general, flowery drinks go well with fruit dessert.”

This pairing follow Tan’s cardinal rule, when enjoying cocktail with desserts -- they need to complement each other, not compete. A heavy chocolate dessert would overpower the drink's flowery nature.

Tan’s Osmanthus pairing recommendation: Fruit-based desserts like fruit sorbets.

Brian Tan’s rule no. 3: Mind the fat

“The Cacao Cocktail [RMB 58] has Cuban rum and cacao liqueur so it doesn’t need any more chocolate,” says Tan.

That counts out one kind of dessert, but it’s the lime in the drink that helps you decide what to pair it with.

“The lime taste cuts through the fat so you want to choose a dessert with a high dairy and fat content,” advises Tan. Although you might initially opt for something lighter with a heavy Cacao Cocktail, the fat content in your dessert rounds out the drink's flavors.

Tan’s Cacao Cocktail pairing recommendation: Cheese cake.

Getting there

30 Sinan Lu, near Huaihai Zhong Lu 思南路30号, 近淮海中路
tel +86 21 6093 2058
Open Tuesday-Saturday 3pm-midnight, closed Mondays