Paper lanterns hung with care, the scent of osmanthus in the air, mooncakes everywhere… Mid-Autumn Festival is upon us! Taking place on September 10 this year, the festival has long been one of the most important holidays in Chinese culture. A time for family, joyful meals and celebrations, the festival brims with meaning and unique traditions.
Historically, the Mid-Autumn Festival marked the end of the harvest period. Thousands of years ago, villagers would gather when the moon was at its fullest and brightest – on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar. They did this to collectively give thanks, spend time together and ask for peace, prosperity and fertility in the coming year.
Today, the tradition lives on. Many Chinese families use the festival as a sacred day to reconnect – a bit like Thanksgiving in American or Canadian cultures. It’s also a time to pay tribute to the moon. In Chinese culture, the full moon symbolizes togetherness while its round shape links to motherhood, life and rejuvenation.
Growing up in Hong Kong, mixologist and BOMSHBEE creative collaborator Shelley Tai says the holiday is close to her heart. “For as long as I can remember, my family has treated the Mid-Autumn Festival with a tremendous sense of importance,” she says.
“My favorite part of the festival was getting that quality time with family over great conversation. After dinner, my siblings and I would run off into the backyard and light candles to place in our paper lanterns, then watch them float up into the night sky.”
Named the 2019 Diageo World Class Hong Kong & Macau Bartender of the Year, Tai relocated to Singapore in 2020 to head up Nutmeg & Clove, an artisanal cocktail lounge ranked among the World’s 50 Best Bars. But despite the distance from her hometown, she maintains a strong connection to her Hong Kong roots and upbringing.
When Tai was younger, her family hosted a highly anticipated soiree every year for their extended relatives and friends. “We did all the traditional activities for Mid-Autumn, from decorating the rooftop with colorful lanterns, spending hours together under the full moon, and of course, eating way too many mooncakes,” she remembers joyfully.
Mooncakes, a dense buttery Chinese pastry stuffed with a variety of decadent fillings, are virtually synonymous with the Mid-Autumn Festival – so much so that the holiday is nicknamed “Mooncake Festival”. That’s partly because mooncakes’ rich flavor makes them challenging to finish alone but perfect to share with friends and family.
Mooncakes are best enjoyed with a generous pour of another celebrated Mid-Autumn treat: osmanthus wine. Made with diluted baijiu – a traditional Chinese grain spirit – and sweet osmanthus flowers, osmanthus wine (also called cassia wine) is believed to promote longevity and is commonly offered during toasts.
“The scent of osmanthus is so evocative of the Mid-Autumn Festival,” says Tai. “Osmanthus wine has this uniquely delicate flavor that is mildly sweet with a lingering aroma – it’s pleasant to drink either alone or mix with something else.”
Tai says she occasionally reaches for the traditional liqueur behind the bar since its subtle, botanical properties add complexity and intrigue to cocktails. In celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival, Tai crafted this elegant osmanthus wine-inspired recipe. Try it for yourself while you toast to the future and gaze at the moon, surrounded by loved ones on September 10.
The Recipe: Fly Me To the Moon (Osmanthus Shrub Cocktail)
The Glass: BOMSHBEE’s Eddy Glass Short
- 30ml gin
- 15ml osmanthus wine
- 20ml pomelo shrub*
- 15ml chrysanthemum syrup**
- 10ml lemon juice
- Mix all ingredients in a shaker.
- Add ice and shake until cold.
- Pour into a BOMSHBEE EDDY Short Glass.
- Garnish with osmanthus and enjoy!
***To make the pomelo shrub***
- 600g pomelo flesh
- 450g white vinegar
- 150g water
- 20g pomelo peel
- 600g sugar
Combine all ingredients in a glass jar. Mix well and let it infuse for 3-5 days.
***To make the chrysanthemum syrup***
- 20g chrysanthemum leaves
- 500g hot water
- 1:1 sugar syrup (equal parts sugar and water)
Brew chrysanthemum in hot water for 10 minutes. Strain and mix in sugar syrup.