Corks+Forks: BOKA’s Infusion Cocktails and Ahi Poke

BOKA’s house infused cocktails claim natural chemistry with their ahi tuna poke.

A fine line is drawn between astute artist and mad scientist when it comes to the creation of beverage. Be it the chemistry lab that is never shown on a winery tour (where a lot of the magic truly happens in a less than immaculate vintage) to the elaborate temperature measurements taken while the beer is boiling as wort to the infusion of herbs, fruits and even random vegetables to spirits – beverage production is science touched by the brilliant light of artistry.

One such inventor is Mi-Suk Ahn of Seattle’s Hotel 1000‘s BOKA Restaurant & Bar. Ahn has been playing a crucial consulting role in the bar developments many of Seattle’s elite, including Pike Place Market’s Alibi Room, the now defunct Brasa in Belltown, Capitol Hill’s The Living Room Bar and Licorous and most recently, she was at Campagne prior to its change to Marche in the heart of the market. Smart from her sensible pumps and slick suit to her precisely shaved-head, Ahn has her appearance and work scaled down to the miniscule measurement and has been bringing her tenured insight and extensive local knowledge to the management of BOKA, garnering a higher regard by critics and naysayers for the downtown hotel bar.

Highlighting Ahn’s expertise in mixology and infusion through 15+ seasonal infused house cocktails, BOKA recently hosted their first tasteBOKA event which gave a small group of guests a tutorial on the at-home and easy production of infused spirits as well as a how-to on constructing four of Ahn’s house concoctions.

“The trick about marinating is it’s really culinary,” Ahn says. “When you’re doing infusing, not only do you have to take what’s in season but you have to make the perfect blend between the fruit or herb and the spirit.”

Constantly rotating with the fresh ingredients of the season, Ahn’s current infusions include cucumber vodka, jalapeno and celery silver tequila, dried hibiscus white rum, pomegranate sweet vermouth and more. The house infusions are Ahn’s specialty, although her heart rests heavily on the brown liquors, including her aged-barreled cocktails that are displayed on the bar top. Her barrel-aged gin is taken one step further into a barrel-aged negroni that is in a class of its own.

Ahn’s 14-year-old signature cocktail baby, the VAMP, which was coyly recrowned as “ReVAMP” at BOKA, is a poison proudly boasting barrel-aged vodka, ruby port, Woodford Reserve Bourbon and bruised bourbon cherries.

Ahn says the goal to infusion is equilibrium between the flavors, looking to not overdo the flavor but also not to miss the point by extracting too little.

“My deal with infusion is simply infusing the flavor,” Ahn says. “When you bring it together, it still needs to be a balanced cocktail. If I want to make a drink with it, I need the flavor to be strong enough to stick out in a cocktail but I don’t want to it be too much for you not to be able sip on its own.”

The Dish: Ahi Poke ($13) — Delicately diced Ahi tuna is placed above a chunked avocado mound, with the sweet and spicy ponzu marinade exploding with audacious flavor in the fish. The display sits next to crisp and crunchy taro chips and says it is meant for sharing but that’s just silly. Be selfish and order one per person.

The Variety: Tequila — After many sun-soaked and alcohol abused Mexico-based spring breaks, you will rarely find me recommending tequila for any sound reason. But this briney, tart and tangy, high-acid son-of-a-bitch is actually a rocking food pairing spirit when a contrast is needed. A stellar liquor alternative to an acidic white wine for a rich seafood dish.

Why It Works: The plump, fleshy generosity of flavors that is Ahi tuna and avocado is a exemplary counterpart to the pungent, stinging burn of tequila. Freshly made, robust food is the ideal dance partner for tequila in the tango of food pairings as the spirit offers the same acidity a white wine might to cut through the fat, offering bitterness to something so sumptuous.

The Recommended Match: The Hot José ($10) — Souped up with jalapeño and celery infused José Cuervo tequila, a splash of Dubonnet Red vermouth and some lime juice, this salty, spicy, herbal infusion of booze is rounded out by the sweet vermouth and spritzed back up again with lime juice, making it a competent challenger to the Ahi tuna poke dance off in your mouth.

Boka Seattle | 1010 1st Ave, Seattle | (206) 357-9000