When I was growing up in the lychee producing regions of China, summer starts when lychee season starts!
Fresh lychees are notoriously difficult to transport and store. So turning them into alcoholic drinks is a great way of extending their shelf-life and offering alternative ways to enjoy them.
For the 9th June edition of Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch programme, I introduced three different but delicious lychee drinks – a lychee wine from Mauritius, a lychee gin from England and a lychee brandy from China! Although lychee is native to China, it is now popular all around the world. With these drinks I hope to show its diversity, in style and in origin.
Details of the drinks and stockists can be found here on Channel 4’s website.
Divine Lychee Wine – 12% ABV. Made in Mauritius (UK stockist)
This delicate and light lychee wine has an off-dry profile, with aromas of fresh lychee, honeysuckle, rose, kiwi, pineapple.
To make the wine, fresh lychees are peeled and stoned before being pressed to extract the juice. Yeast is then added to the filtered juice and after two to three weeks of fermentation, plus three weeks clarification, the finished wine is then bottled.
The wine was launched in 2012 after 80 years of trial and error, by the great-grandfather of the current winery owner. This wine uses the Tai So variety that is grown locally.
Lychee Gin, Copper in the Clouds, 20% ABV., Made in England (UK stockist)
This is made by an artisan distillery based in Hertfordshire, England. The lychees are peeled and stoned by hand in the distillery. Once the fruit has been prepared, the lychees are blended to create a heavy juice. Pectin enzyme is then added to the juice, allowing the solids to separate. The juice is then chill filtered. The base for the liqueur is an eight-botanical gin. There is a large dose of juniper in the recipe to retain the gin character.
The eight botanicals used in the gin are:
Italian Juniper berries
Fresh lemon peel
Lemon balm (Melissa)
The clear, pure lychee juice is blended with the gin, with added British beet-derived sugar and a small amount of natural flavouring. It is then left to rest in steel tanks for three days before bottling. The taste is very bright and fresh, with floral and citrus notes.
Due to its delicate lychee flavours, the gin can be enjoyed neat or on ice. It is also delicious topped with sparkling wine.
Lychee brandy, Danli, 40% ABV., made in China (UK stockist)
This is a triple distilled brandy, from an artisan producer in the lychee growing region of Canton, China.
Firstly a dry base wine is made with fresh lychees, then it goes through three rounds of distillation. It is barrel aged in French oak for at least 12 months to add more aromatic dimensions.
It has a distinct lychee nose, with light floral notes that give way to more typical aromas of honey and spices. The mouthfeel is round and smooth, with the persistent lychee flavour that gives it a lot of lift, and nicely framed by spices.
I also served zongzi on the show with the lychee brandy — as it was the Dragon Boat Festival (Duan Wu) weekend. Zongzi is a glutinous rice parcel wrapped in bamboo or pandan leaf – often with sweet or savoury fillings. It is eaten widely during the Duan Wu festival. Here is the Victualist recipe.