Photo by Ruta Smith

Bright and Boozy

It’s less than a week into 2021, so you might be taking a break from the booze — but does it really even count if you indulge in a cocktail made with all-vegan, house-made ingredients?

That’s what you’ll find at Neon Tiger where owner John Adamson sought the help of cocktail expert and former colleague Brent Sweatman to build a drink menu highlighted by a long list of colorful kegged cocktails. The duo found success at The Rarebit with kegged Moscow Mules and other craft creations, so Adamson knew Sweatman was the one to help the vegan King Street eatery establish itself as a cocktail destination.

Photo by Ruta Smith

Sweatman now owns Sweatman’s All Natural, which specializes in handcrafted tonic and ginger beer made without using additives, high fructose corn syrup or preservatives. His creations can be found behind the bars at Rebel Taqueria, Felix, Paddock & Whiskey and Seanachai Whiskey & Cocktail Bar.

“We hit it off and the Moscow mule really put me on the map,” said Sweatman.

After he was hired as a consultant, Sweatman decided he wanted Neon Tiger’s cocktails to play off its futuristic vibe. And true to form, Neon Tiger’s cocktails rely on quality ingredients.

“My M.O. has always been fresh juices and things that are good for you,” Sweatman said. “The other thing was colors, just because of the name of the place.”

Photo by Ruta Smith
Kegged cocktails are the main event at Neon Tiger.

Colorful cocktails are plentiful at Neon Tiger. Take the lavender paloma, a bright pink tequila-based drink made using fresh squeezed grapefruit juice. The dragon fruit club soda, a non-alcoholic drink, is another ode to Neon Tiger’s eclectic decor, which was inspired by the impact animal agriculture has on the world’s oceans.

Both of these drinks are offered on tap — in fact, kegged cocktails are the main event at Neon Tiger. The restaurant also serves a rose Moscow mule, turmeric ginger beer, cucumber tonic, all natural cola and a rotating seasonal soda on tap.

“We have a number of cocktails and mocktails on draft because I know that there’s a demand for some artisanal non-alcoholic beverages,” Adamson said.

Jeremy Buck, a cocktail expert and friend of Sweatman, also contributed to the menu. After developing beverage programs for establishments in New York City, Boston and India, Buck brought some flair to Neon Tiger’s cocktail program.

“I’ve always liked what John’s done, so I was psyched to be able to work with them,” Buck said. “Brent already had a lot of it going, and I helped him finalize some drinks and added a few as well.”

Photo by Ruta Smith

For a drink called the Truffle Tiki Tiger, he brought a vegan approach to a technique called fat-washing — high-end cocktail bars use it to impart savory elements into drinks, often using bacon or duck fat. Using truffle oil to keep the drink vegan, he described it as “a riff on a pineapple daiquiri.”

Buck’s aquafaba foam serves as a vegan substitute for egg whites and shows up in multiple cocktails.

“It’s surprisingly easy,” Buck said. “The water that the chickpea is sitting in, that’s all you need to use.”

With house-made bitters, syrups and an all-vegan edible print that stamps some drinks with the restaurant’s logo, Neon Tiger’s cocktail program stands out in a city filled with craft libations.
“The thing that’s really encouraging is just how incredible the feedback has been. It’s been beyond what I was even expecting.”