Behind the Bar

New Bar, New Cocktail Menu, and a New Approach for a New Orleans Upstart

At Red's Chinese in the Bywater, they're taking tiki drinks to new levels.
Amy and Mateo of Red's Chinese.
Mateo and Amy of Red's Chinese.

Red’s Chinese started as a fly-by-night delivery operation in the Bywater neighborhood of New Orleans, opening its brick and mortar location late in 2014. This spring, Red’s hired a new general manager, Mateo Boudousquiè, who has overseen the construction of a new bar and the development of a revamped bar program along with owner Amy Mosberger. It's all part of the plan to elevate Red’s experience while still keeping it a bit weird.

“When this restaurant started, it was pretty punk rock,” says Boudousquiè. “We want to keep it alternative and funky, but we want it to be proper in terms of the elements of service. We want high-quality service and drinks. You’re happier when you’re drinking good liquor. Also, the conversation is better.”

The revamped bar at Red's Chinese. The revamped bar at Red's Chinese.

Prior to coming to Red’s, Boudousquiè guided the development of the bar program at Chais Delachaise, a neighborhood wine bar and bistro in Uptown New Orleans. “My bar was 52 percent of sales, so we were a huge part of the restaurant. That came from knowing the neighborhood and the clientele. This bar will be very different, because we are in a very different neighborhood,” he says.

Renovations on the bar began in late spring, after Boudousquiè designed his dream bar, which was built in a storage unit and later brought into the restaurant. The bar also added new plumbing and paint. “While I was designing the bar, I started adding new cocktails to the menu, one at a time. I didn’t want to do too much before the bar was built. In the coming months we will be fully fleshing out our new concept,” Boudousquiè says.

Boudousquiè describes his new direction as "bou-tiki" – a more refined version of the drinks the restaurant has always offered, integrating medicinal elements and ingredients from the restaurant’s farm plot in New Orleans. “I moved out west in 2010 and worked seasonal jobs and also on farms, and started doing a lot of reading, books like Zen and Tonic, that bring back that restorative element of drinks from the past. I have friends with inflammation and indigestion, and I want them to be able to enjoy cocktails that also make them feel better.”

Coconut cocktails

The new drinks will also expand upon classic tiki offerings, adding ingredients like curry and Thai bitters to play with and complement Red’s pan-Asian menu, as well as syrups made with garden-fresh ingredients like lemongrass, ginger, and locally grown herbs. Boudousquiè has paid his dues in the hospitality industry: he's worked at bars all over the country, beginning in Athens, Georgia, making his fair share of Rum and Cokes, followed by a couple of years at Applebee’s, as well as stints as an insurance agent and a salesman at Kay Jewelers.

“Each cocktail is inspired by my travels, and the knowledge passed on to me from people in all sorts of professions ... western and eastern medicine, herbalists, farmers, chefs, and neuroscience professors. I want to take all that knowledge and step the drinks up a notch, without losing our laidback atmosphere and eclectic menu.”

Future plans include an outdoor tiki bar as well as a Monday karaoke night geared toward service industry professionals, set to begin in July. “It’s not about talking shop. We’re going to get drunk and sing," Boudousquiè says. This fall, the restaurant plans to begin a Chinese brunch, and a new late-night menu on Friday and Saturday nights.

“This fall is going to be really exciting. I’m developing drinks that open the palate and accentuate the amazing food our incredibly talented kitchen puts out every night,” he says.

Red's Chinese snoball cocktail

***

Bob Barker: the Snoball
(because the price is always right)

For a 16 ounce snoball:

  • 6 oz sake
  • 4 oz hibiscus lemongrass syrup
  • 1 oz rice gin (Red’s bar stocks Oryza gin out of Thibodaux in southeast Louisiana)
  • 1 oz fresh lime
  • Fresh purslane and nasturtium

Begin with fresh shaved ice. (Amy and Mateo found a vintage shaved ice maker online.) Mix liquid ingredients and distribute evenly over ice. Garnish with purslane and nasturtium flowers.

“This drink showcases a lot of the medicinal cocktail components I’ve been working with recently, as well as things coming out of our garden,” says Boudousquiè. “Nasturtium is packed with Vitamin C, and purslane helps improve memory, three-dimensional vision, and mental health. As far as the name, that comes from time spent with my grandmother. I used to injure myself to skip school and watch 'The Price is Right' and go to Seafood World Buffet.”

Meghan Holmes is a New Orleans-based writer and documentarian. She has a master's degree in Southern Studies from the University of Mississippi and her work often focuses on food, culture, and the environment.

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