You know that the “buzz button” cocktail garnishes have gone beyond the craft bar when they show up at TGI Fridays. The Dallas-based restaurant chain started using the golden flower buds, also called Szechuan buttons or buddha buttons, this past spring in its Blackberry Buzz ’Rita at select locations.
Another chain, the 24-unit, Hawthorne, CA-based Eureka!, includes a buzz button on the Electric Butterfly cocktail, which is made with lime juice, butterfly pea tea, orgeat, Chareau aloe liqueur, white rum and Copper & Kings Immature brandy. Eureka!’s Las Vegas location, which opened this past February, serves this cocktail.
What do these buzz buttons add to cocktails? The flower provides a multisensory experience—namely an intense “Pop Rocks” candy tingling effect in the mouth—along with numbness and increased salivation. Bartenders say that the buzz buttons can help bring out the individual flavors in drinks.
Where else have buzz buttons been popping up at the bar? Tratto, a bar-driven Italian restaurant in San Francisco, created a summer cocktail called the Tongue Tingler. Inspired by a gin sour, the drink combines green tea and buzz-button-infused gin with Jamaican rum, yellow chartreuse, lime, egg white and matcha.
The Blue Duck Lounge at the Park Hyatt Washington in the spring included a buzz button flower on the Subpoena cocktail, with chamomile whiskey, red pepper-infused Calvados, red pepper syrup, yuzu and salt solution. The Macintosh in Charleston, SC, has the Witchdoctor ($10), made with vodka, cucumber, elderflower, lime mint and a Szechuan button.
Jing in Denver has long offered the Drunken Buddha cocktail ($12) with house-infused citrus vodka and a buddha button. Guests can add a buzz button to any cocktail for $3.
The Chandelier Lounge at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas offered the Alice in Wonderland-inspired cocktail, We’re All Mad Here, this past summer. Made with Empress Indigo gin, Soho Lychee, St. Germain liqueur, H20Apple Rosewater, lemon juice and chardonnay cardamom ginger syrup, the drink comes with an edible fruit leather of buzz buttons, pear, ginger and lemon.
The leather, printed on edible paper with edible ink, has buzz buttons ground up in it and a spillanthol (the active ingredient in the buzz button) extract to engage the salivary glands. The cocktail is served in carafe with a bottle of gin and glass with ice sphere, garnishes and straw; guests are instructed to mix the elements and eat the fruit leather.
The Chandelier Lounge also boasts one of the OG buzz button cocktails, the Verbena (show atop). Developed by The Cosmopolitan’s chef mixologist Mariena Mercer, the Verbena cocktail is a lemon verbena and ginger-infused Margarita garnished with the Szechuan flower and available on The Chandelier’s middle level bar.
Despite the fact that it’s not even listed on a menu, the $15 Verbena has proved to be the best-selling drink on the property year over year since The Chandelier opened in late 2010. The Cosmopolitan has sold more than 515,542 Verbenas since the drink’s inception, grossing over $7.6 million in sales, it announced in mid-September.