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

The tequila-based Little Dragon cocktail embodies the many layered Southeast Asian flavors at play in Oklahoma City’s Ma Der Lao Kitchen. This margarita riff draws its acidity and fruity sweetness from fresh lime juice and mandarin liqueur, and deep savory notes and a touch of heat from fish sauce- and chile-spiked jaew som dipping sauce. Co-owner and bar manager Jeslyn Chanchaleune also likes to use palm sugar in her simple syrup, which lends a gentle caramel complexity. Look for this tropical sweetener at your local Asian grocery store or online; it is available in bags of large, hard rocks or, in its 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 chef Jeff Chanchaleune suggests using any leftover jaew som as a dip for fried spring rolls, spooned over grilled or fried meats or seafood, or whisked 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.

Want more SAVEUR?

Get our favorite recipes, stories, and more delivered to your inbox.