Adventures with Alcoholic Boba

It’s not often one gets to witness the birth of a culinary revolution.

I’ve been visiting my friend Avikar these past two weeks at Caltech, hanging out, going to ditch day, working on a project, eating lots of food and boba, when all of the sudden one of Avikar’s friends casually mentions something about alcoholic boba.

“WHAT” I say, turning towards him. Me and my friend Karthik Bala have spent some time theorizing about the possibility of alcoholic boba. I thought it would be disgusting. My imaginary shot of vodka poured over a heap of tapioca balls did nothing but trigger my gag reflex. But Karthik was insistent. He believed it was viable. “I’m going to start my own alcoholic boba business, and when I’ve made millions you’re going to be crying at my feet” he told me. Well somebody beat you to it Karthik.

Was this really possible though? Sure somebody is doing it, but that doesn’t mean that it’s good. It was time for some investigative journalism.

Upon further questioning and googling I learned that the alcoholic boba is a biweekly popup that claims a quarter of the space inside the Seven Bar Lounge every other Wednesday. Elton Keung has a day job running his own Kickstarter backed boba shop, La Bobatory, and uses this popup to perfect his passion for alcoholic boba drinks. I happened to be at Caltech for one of his popup Wednesdays, so I teamed up with the other boba addicts on campus and made my way downtown.

Without further ado, the menu:


I’ll give you a second to pick out which one you think would taste best, so that you can be disappointed when it wasn’t one of the three that I tried.

I started with the SpongeBoba, because I love Piña Coladas. The line moves slow, given that it’s a one man enterprise, but he has some style. He went to bartending school and it shows. I finally get my drink, raise the boba straw to my lips, take a big pull… and it’s delicious. A nice creamy mixture, a hint of rum, delicious boba to chew on - Elton Keung has actually done it. The biggest issue is ‘boba fixation’ - the sensation where as soon as you finish chewing on a boba you want another one to chew on, causing you to go through your drink way faster than you would have liked. And that means it’s time for round two.

Everyone who came with me and got the Bobagasm was very pleased with their drink, so I went for that one. It was also an excellent match. The sweet and creamy drink paired with honey boba is a perfect formula. But I still had the nagging suspicion in the back of my mind that this was a one trick pony - both the drinks I’d tried had been creamy and sweet. A couple of other people had gotten more hardcore drinks, and they seemed to be frowning at their glasses. I needed a third drink, in the name of science.

The JD Green Tea seemed like it had the most potential to go wrong. No matter what you do to Jack Daniel’s, I cannot envision it pairing well with boba. So for you, dear readers, I braved the line again and ordered while trying to keep the fear out of my voice.

It wasn’t amazing. But, incredibly enough, it was passable. It pushes the limits of what one can do with alcohol and boba, accomplishing something, while not fantastic, still beyond what I thought possible. For a person who savors their Jack Daniels this could work. But my tendency is to swallow hard alcohols as fast as possible, which doesn’t work well when paired with boba. There is potential, but for now my recommendation would be to stick to the sweet, creamy drinks.

A summary of sentiments from around the table, for any future alcohol-boba adventurers:

Stella Green Tea Not tried
JD Green Tea Eh
BobaSour Eh
LeGINdary Leia Good
Bobagasm Excellent
Fuego Mango Eh
Mic Jaeger Not tried
SpongeBoba Excellent
Written on June 1, 2017

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