In “Getting to Know You,” a first-act number in The King and I, Mrs. Anna assures the children she likes them by singing, “You are precisely/my cup of tea.” But a theatergoer who utters similar words at the show’s intermission is likely to mean something a little less innocent.
My Cup of Tea is the name of one of the five cocktails that Michael De Mono, of Sweet Hospitality, which supplies products for LCT’s concessions, concocted for bibulous patrons. It consists of Thai Iced Tea laced with Mekhong Thai Whiskey and Rumchata.
“Having a drink liked that seemed like a no-brainer to include,” De Mono told me. “When I’m doing the research for a show, I sometimes have to delve deeply into the script or listen to the entire cast album before I decide what to name the cocktails. But with The King and I, most of the names came pretty easily.”
Being well-versed in a production helps explain why De Mono is known as the “drinks dramaturg” for Sweet Hospitality, which works to increase the fun factor for 25 Broadway and off-Broadway shows. Such a position did not exist in the 1950s, when The King and I premiered on Broadway. Bars existed in theaters, but patrons were more likely to ask for a belt of bourbon or vermouth-laden martini, not anything thematic.
The rise of craft cocktails over the past decade, following the cosmo-swilling days of "Sex and the City,” meant that sooner or later the trend would seep into theaters. (I suspect that Carrie Bradshaw, were she to alight at the Beaumont these days, would order a Tuptim-tini: Ketel One vodka, fruitlab jasmine liqueur, coconut water, and ginger bitters.)
De Mono said he is sometimes inspired by classic-era cocktails. The most requested King and I drink, for example, is Welcome to Bangkok, which consists of gold rum, fresh lime, basil, mint, and lemongrass. Why is it so popular? “It’s similar to a mojito,” De Mono said. “We say it’s an ‘elixir fit for a king’ but people of all classes seem to love it.”
De Mono said that the Anna and the King cocktail is the most adventurous. It contains Bombay Sapphire Gin (don’t forget: Mrs. Anna once lived in India), tonic, Thai spiced bitters, and (the adventurous part) sweet chili syrup. “Some people may be brought up short by the chili,” De Mono said, “but it gives the drink a distinctive flavor.”
It is the final King and I libation, The Shadow Kiss, that I suspect gives the most colossal kick of the cocktail quintet. Its ingredients: Lunazul Reposado tequila, Cointreau, fresh lime, pineapple, and green curry. On the Beaumont concession drinks menu, headlined Siam Saloon, the drink is billed thusly: “It may hide in the shadows, but this secretive blend definitely doesn’t speak in a whisper. Over too soon? Have another!”
“Some people do,” De Mono said.
Brendan Lemon is the editor of lemonwade.com.