What is a Lychee?
The lychee (pronounced lee'chee) nut is a rare, sub-tropical Asian fruit that grows on a 20-40 foot tall lychee tree with smooth gray bark and dark green leaves. Lychee nuts are similar in shape to a strawberry, with a red, bumpy outer shell that is about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. The shell protects the sweet, sticky, white fruit holding a seed. That little, white globe of flesh is the object of desire and has a sweet, juicy flavor and aroma incomparable to any other fruit. Lychee are also known as lichee, litchi or alligator strawberries.
The Many Uses of Lychee
For over 2,000 years, the lychee fruit has been used for a variety of purposes throughout Asian culture. It is a symbol of love and romance for the Chinese because of it's red, heart-shaped shell. With more vitamin C than an orange or lemon, lychees are a natural, healthy choice for adding sweet fruit flavors to desserts, salads, sweet and sour sauce, stir-fry and poultry dishes. Lychee can be found canned in most Asian food markets and, if the season is right (usually June and July), can also be found fresh.
Lychee as a Cocktail Mixer
Until recently, if you wanted a lychee martini or other drink you needed to use the hard to find fruit itself, often to create a juice, infusion or puree.
Thankfully, a few spirit producers have blended the fruit into some super-sweet liqueurs. This has opened up a new world of Asian-inspired cocktails to the majority.
Of course, making your own lychee syrup or liqueur is very easy and it makes a great Lychee Martini.
The distinct flavor (often likened to grapes, strawberries and watermelon), pairs well with a variety of mixers, especially other fruit-based spirits including Midori and fruit-infused vodkas, as well as with most orange, lemon and cranberry-flavored mixers.
SOHO Lychee Liqueur:
SOHO Lychee Liqueur is distilled in France using the best natural Asian lychees available. The clarity of the transparent liqueur is deceptive to the array of sweet, natural flavors it contains.
A perfect representation of a pure, ripe lychee fruit, SOHO Lychee Liqueur is a great introduction to the exotic fruit. It carries fragrant lychee and citrus flowers inside, leading to a refreshing, bright lychee palate. SOHO makes a light lychee martini and is a versatile mixer for a number of cocktails.
- Retails for around $19 per 750mL bottle.
- 42 Proof (21% abv)
- Released in 2006
Note: As of 2014, I believe that Lichido is no longer being produced.
Produced in Cognac, France, Lichido Liqueur is a sweet, pink liqueur in a stunningly colorful bottle. It is a carefully designed combination of aged Cognac and vodka with lychee and guava essences, finished off with a little white peach juice.
Lichido is filled with the delicious aroma of lychees and peaches. It's silky, Cognac feel pairs wonderfully with the flavors of lychee, peach, grape and watermelon which swirl around inside. Lichido is perfect for those who enjoy very sweet cocktails.
- Retails for around $28 per 750ml bottle.
- 36 Proof (18% abv)
- Released in 2006