When I sat down at Japoix and took my first sip of the Electric French Kiss ($11), made with Ty Ku Liquor, lemonade and a Szechuan button, I was shocked — for myriad reasons. The most obvious was the Szechuan button (sometimes referred to as an electric or sansho button) in the cocktail, which creates a buzz when you take a bite — a tingling sensation that's like mainlining Pop Rocks or putting your tongue on a 9-volt battery or biting into a piece of tin foil with a bad tooth (but not in a bad way). Lawrence Yee, the owner of Japoix, discovered Szechuan buttons when he was a partner at Jing; he introduced them to Denver there in a drink called a Buddha Drop. The second shock? What an exceptionally gracious owner Yee is, despite the fact that his restaurant is stuck in the Beauvallon, a building still undergoing reconstructive surgery. (Yee says the Beauvallon owners have promised the job will be done by mid-October.) And one last shock: Yee and his chef, Jay Spickelmier, actually met back in high school, at Cherry Creek, where they both played soccer. While their teammates talked about football and girls and college, Yee and Spickelmier dreamed about the day when they would open a restaurant together. As a Creek alum, I can imagine the ridicule that this inspired among their classmates. But when Yee and Spickelmier reconnected at Jing, they resurrected their dream — and it became reality in August when Japoix opened its doors.
After the shock of the French Kiss, Yee suggested I try another taste sensation: the Almond Boba Tini ($9) made with Pinnacle Whipped Vodka, Amaretto and tapioca pearls. An extremely sweet dessert drink, it was not my cup of cocktail — but it contained another pleasant surprise. Unlike the gummy-bear-like boba I've encountered in the past, these tapioca pearls were startlingly explosive, providing another flavor burst in the mouth.
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With drinks like these, I doubt the bar at Japoix will stay under wraps for long.