5 Must-Try Matcha Cocktails in Honolulu

Does adding the superfood ingredient to a cocktail make it a health drink?

We never tire of matcha. (Case in point: 6 Green-Tea-Flavored Sweets to Help You Meet Your Matcha and 5 Treats That Are a Matcha Made in Heaven.) This year for our annual Best of Honolulu issue, we sought out the best cocktail featuring the superfood. Here are five contenders. If you want to know who came out on top come July, subscribe here.


1. Busan Star, Lucky Belly

Busan Star, Lucky Belly
PhotoS: Katrina Valcourt 


I tried and failed to order this drink on three separate occasions over the past few months—the restaurant was always out of makgeolli, the Korean rice wine that serves as its base. Fourth time’s the charm though, and it was worth the wait. Coffee-infused makgeolli, Licor 43, egg white and matcha come together in a sweet end-of-meal cocktail that brings you out of that (Belly Bowl-induced) food coma. Though it may be a faux pas, go ahead and order this with your ramen because life is short, and who knows how long before the makgeolli runs out and the Busan Star disappears again?

$10, 50 N. Hotel St., (808) 531-1888, luckybelly.com


2. Matcha Old Fashioned, Nomu


Downstairs in the Waikīkī Shopping Plaza, grab a seat at the bar in the center of Waikīkī Yokocho and order Nomu’s most popular signature cocktail, the matcha old fashioned. High-quality green tea from Japan tempers the strong whiskey, sweetened with simple syrup, poured over a large ice cube and topped with a gold flake. If Steve is your bartender, know that you’re in good hands. Pro tip: Kama‘āina get 10 percent off.

$15 ($13.50 for kama‘āina), 2250 Kalākaua Ave., Lower Level, (808) 777-3558, waikiki-yokocho.com


3. Matcha Old Fashioned, Bar Leather Apron


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If we’re paying $16 for a cocktail, it better be downright amazing. That’s never in question at Bar Leather Apron. For its matcha old fashioned, head bartender Justin Park sets up the ingredients in front of you: Evan Williams single-barrel vintage bourbon, matcha, wasanbon sugar and orange bitters. The matcha and wasanbon sugar both come from Japan—the syrupy wasanbon is similar in taste to demerara, a little toffeelike but not too sweet. After frothing the ingredients with an electric whisk, stirring with ice, straining and then serving over an ice sphere, Park adds an orange twist and an orange star cut out from the rind. Nice touch.

$16, 745 Fort St. Mall, Suite 127, (808) 524-0808, barleatherapron.com


4. Holy Matchamony, Bevy


If you’re like me and don’t usually know what half of the ingredients in a drink are without not-so-discreetly Googling beneath the bar, you may end up with Bevy’s Holy Matchamony, featuring Absolut Elyx vodka, matcha, honey, honeydew and only one unfamiliar item: labne. But it only seems unfamiliar because the ingredient isn’t a type of alcohol, or something you would expect in a drink. The labne here is in fact a type of Middle Eastern yogurt cheese (more commonly spelled labneh) made in-house. Don’t worry about the cocktail being tangy—labne adds a slight creaminess, but the drink is very light and mainly tastes of honeydew and a small amount of matcha.

$13, 675 Auahi St., (808) 594-7445, bevyhawaii.com


5. Tea Ceremony, The Brilliant Ox

Tea ceremony from The Brilliant Ox.

Imagine an iced matcha latte, which is basically matcha-flavored milk, sweetened with agave and vanilla. Now spike it with vodka. That’s the dangerously delicious combination you get at The Brilliant Ox when you order the Tea Ceremony, which happens to be vegan, thanks to almond milk, and gluten-free (the restaurant uses Ao Vodka, which is distilled from Japanese rice). It’s available at both lunch and dinner, though we strongly suggest it with brunch, now served every Saturday and Sunday.

$11, Ala Moana Center, Third Level, (808) 377-4803, thebrilliantox.com