Little Dragon Cocktail

At Oklahoma’s Ma Der Lao Kitchen, Southeast Asian flavors sparkle in a bright and savory margarita riff.

  • Cook

    20 minutes


By Jeslyn Chanchaleune

Published on May 27, 2022

This tequila-based cocktail, developed by Oklahoma City restaurant Ma Der Lao Kitchen's co-owner and bar manager Jeslyn Chanchaleunem, channels the flavors of jeow som, a fish sauce- and chile-spiked Lao dipping sauce. To make the simple syrup, Chanchaleunem likes to use palm sugar, which lends caramel undertones. Look for this sweetener at your local Asian grocery store or online; it is usually available in bags of large, hard rocks, or in a more scoopable form in wax-topped plastic jars. Make your own syrup by combining equal parts (by weight) palm sugar and water in a small pot, then cooking over medium-low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Leftover simple syrup keeps well in the fridge for up to 1 month. Ma Der Lao's chef and Jeslyn's brother Jeff Chanchaleune suggests serving leftover jaew som alongside fried spring rolls, spooning it over grilled or fried meats or seafood, or whisking it into a vinaigrette. 


For the jaew som:

  • 3 tbsp. finely chopped fresh garlic
  • 3–5 finely chopped green bird’s eye chiles
  • ¾ cups fish sauce (preferably Squid brand)
  • ½ cups fresh lime juice
  • 2 tbsp. padaek (Lao-style fermented fish sauce, such as Panthai brand)
  • ¼ cups sugar

For the cocktail:

  • Tajin, for the rim
  • 1½ oz. reposado tequila
  • 1 oz. simple syrup
  • ¾ oz. lime juice
  • ½ oz. mandarin liqueur (such as Mandarine Napoleon)
  • ¼ oz. jaew som
  • Dehydrated lime wedge, for garnish (optional)


Step 1

Make the jaew som: To a blender, add the garlic, chiles, fish sauce, lime juice, padaek, and sugar. Blend until just smooth with visible specks of green chile. Transfer to an airtight container and use immediately or refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

Step 2

Make the cocktail: Moisten the rim of a rocks glass and roll the edge in Tajin. Add ice and set it aside. To a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add the tequila, simple syrup, lime juice, mandarin liqueur, and jaew som. Shake until very cold, then strain into the rocks glass, garnish with a dehydrated lime wedge (if desired), and serve immediately.

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