Located on Munjoy Hill, next to Rosemont Market in the space that used to be Lolita, Jing Yan is an Asian restaurant with some truly inspired cocktails. I’m still thinking about one I tried, the $13 White Swallow: Ketel One vodka, Luxardo maraschino cherry liqueur, vanilla, milk and lemon. It was unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before, and I mean that in the best possible way.

Married co-owners Britt Langford and Leo Zhang, both of whom lived and worked in Beijing, have created a cozy and welcoming corner with an Asian flair. The name comes from a species of Beijing swallow that nests outside apartment buildings and is thought to signify the presence of a peaceful family, precisely the kind of atmosphere they are trying to foster.

Part of how they do that is with the presentation. Before my drinking companions and I received our cocktails, little black trays were placed in front of each of us. One by one, a stunning cocktail was carefully placed on the tray, and then a fresh white flower was put on the tray next to it.  Photo-worthy even if you’re not on Instagram.

I’ve been to several bars where the cocktails looked incredible but fell flat when it came to the most important part, the taste. That was most definitely not the case at Jing Yan. Zhang, who created the entire cocktail menu himself, is highly skilled at combining multiple subtle flavors in a way that causes your palate to enjoy every single sip.

A blueberry lavender martini, the White Swallow, and the strawberry highball at Jing Yan on Munjoy Hill. Photo by Taylor Carley

Another example of his masterful ways is the $13 blueberry lavender martini (Ketel One, blueberry, house-made lavender simple syrup and cranberry), which one of my drinking companions ordered. Both blueberry and lavender can be hard to balance successfully in a cocktail, but Zhang somehow discovered a way to make the visually stunning cocktail taste like a mouthful of fresh blueberries with a soft hint of lavender without it being reminiscent of a smoothie.

In short, I pretty much want to go back and try every cocktail on the menu. The cocktail options (a full page!) range from $12 to $15, with most either $13 or $14. The menu is divided into six house specialties (I’m already thinking about ordering the $14 Lost in Thailand: Plantation rum, Malibu rum, lemongrass, Thai basil and chili), four highballs (including a smoky one made with Ardbeg 10-year single malt Scotch whisky) and a dozen classics.

Jing Yan is small – and sure to grow in popularity – so consider making a reservation. Photo by Angie Bryan

What else do you need to know? I’d argue that the mad cocktail genius of Zhang is reason enough for you to head straight to Jing Yan and enjoy the magic for yourself.  If you decide to do so, get there early or make a reservation – like Lolita, it’s a small space, with only eight tables and seven seats at the bar (which I am delighted to report has purse hooks underneath it). It hasn’t even been open for a year yet – since late November of 2020 – but once word spreads more, you’re not going to be able to get a seat at the bar.

Three final things I love about Jing Yan. Thursdays through Saturdays from 9-11 p.m., it turns into more of a cocktail bar than a restaurant, offering a limited food menu and a great place to have a drink after being out on the town (say, at the nearby Good Theater). The Facebook feed has a continuing series of posts explaining the origin of various dishes. And the service was fast and attentive, with our water glasses refilled before we ran out.

I’ll definitely be back.

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