There is an Italian restaurant in Houston owned by a chef from Thailand who has managed to confound Kipling's dictum "East is East and West is West" in a particularly beautiful way. The fusionista is named Sonchai Rapesak, though everyone knows him as chef Chai. And his restaurant is called Crostini (2411 South Shepherd Drive, 713-524-8558), which is Italian for crunchy things.
But my reason for visiting Crostini is not the pretty plates of food floating by me; it's the Italian lemonade, a cocktail created by Rapesak that takes fusion even further. Bartender Brandon Moller mixes one up for me in a tall, handsome pilsner glass. It seems perfect for warm-weather lollygagging -- cool, sweet, spicy and tart all at once. The key to Rapesak's lemonade is a syrup flavored with gingerroot according to his own arcane formula.
Chef Chai's Italian lemonade:
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Boil together ten ounces sugar, ten ounces water, three ounces sliced fresh ginger and two ounces corn syrup. Reduce by half. Allow syrup to cool, then mix with ten ounces fresh-squeezed lemon juice and ten ounces water. Chill. In a pilsner glass filled with ice cubes, add 1.5 ounces of Absolut Citron vodka. Top with ginger lemonade, stir, then add a floater of Tuaca liqueur. Garnish with a slice of lemon and a sliver of gingerroot.