It’s time to add a drink called Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa to the bar menu, for a number of reasons. The herbal supplement, a sought after item in many Chinatowns around the world after it was discovered to have healing properties that smooth coughs in this flu-prone time, has now been given a new life in cocktail bars and lounges.
The discovery has inspired bartenders to add the sweet paste into their Bourbon whiskey, brandy and rum cocktails.
The concoction has now become quite a fashionable drink, with one customer commenting that a version of the paste mingled cocktail had menthol and cinnamon added which resulted in a slightly bitter taste.
The New Paper asked bartender Louis Tan at L’Aiglon to come up with a Chinese New Year-inspired cocktail and wrote: “And who knew dark rum and Pei Pa Koa would be a match made in heaven?”
This somewhat expanded the use of Pei Pa koa, which is made of fritillary bulb, loquat leaf, ladybell root, Indian bread, pomelo and Chinese bellflower root, was traditionally taken by dissolving a tablespoon of it in hot water.
Pei Pa Koa can be dated back to the Qing Dynasty more than 400 years ago when the mother of a provincial military commander was cured by a physician’s concoction of 15 herbs. The commander then asked the physician to mass produce the concoction for other people.
Fast forward to the Hong Kong company behind the syrup, Nin Jiom Medicine Manufactory, which chalked up annual sales of almost HK$350 million (US$44.87 million) in 2014.
The herbal medicine became a hot item last month after the Wall Street Journal reported that some Chinatown shops were running out of the paste because it cured many people of coughs and the flu.
Because of the herbal supplement’s popularity, the retail price on some online stores has shot up almost 10 times, to $70 from $7.80 per bottle.
One other popular use for Pei Pa Koa is in Halloween – it can be used with red food coloring, corn syrup and Ribena syrup to make edible fake blood.
Cocktail bars in Chinatowns are now toasting Pei Pa Koa’s health.