It’s pretty well-established these days that much of this "science" was a bunch of snake oil, but at top-notch Uptown cocktail bar Parliament, the drive is still somewhat alive. Fedora-clad barman Eddie "Lucky" Campbell doesn’t promise any health miracles when he serves you The Jing, but he is quick to note its key component's centuries-long past as a highly prized Eastern medicine.
The key component of The Jing isn’t the 17-year Suntory Japanese whisky — it’s deer antler extract. You may remember back to 2013, when former Texas Rangers star Nelson Cruz (among other Major League Baseball players) was suspended for using the extract, which is believed to have performance-enhancing abilities. Around that same time, Campbell was trying to figure out how to use this component in a cocktail. But the roots of deer antler extract’s "metaphysical" properties go back much further.
Deer antler extract is one of the most potent ways to restore one’s life essence.
According to ancient Chinese medicine, dating back thousands of years, deer antler extract is one of the most potent ways to restore one’s "jing," or life essence. "It’s your inner tenacity that we’re all born with," explains Campbell. "We may all have different levels of jing that we’re born with, and the trials and tribulations of life deteriorate your jing."
The science behind deer antler extract’s purported benefits, which also include skeletal and cardiovascular support, is largely inconclusive, but the serum is still coveted — a 2-ounce bottle of the high-quality deer antler extract used at Parliament costs around $100 — largely for the presence of mucopolysaccharides, the chemicals that restore broken antlers in deer. It is believed that these properties help regenerate the human body, too.
Campbell first discovered the potion at a now-defunct raw foods restaurant, whose dedication to homeopathy and natural remedies Campbell describes as almost cult-like. He paid the owner of the restaurant $100 for a "mega-dose" of deer antler extract. "I was really in a bad place in my life at the time," says Campbell. He’d just left the ill-fated Chesterfield, and there was a glimmer of hope that Parliament could exist. But Campbell was busy — doing events, consulting on cocktail programs, and working a full-time bar shift. To say the least, his jing was quite low.
After taking the dose of deer antler extract, Campbell says that he experienced a burst of creativity like he’d never experienced before. "All of a sudden, so much stress had been relieved, I had never experienced a day like this in my life. My creative juices were just firing," says Campbell. "I was almost just delusional." And thus, The Jing was born.
After that shift, Campbell says that his super-creativity dissipated, but he was still committed to getting this extract into a cocktail. He had to get most creative in attempting to cover up the taste of deer antler extract, which has a sort of earthy, funky tree bark flavor, and it wasn’t going to be easy. "It had to be relevant to the cocktail, and flavor relevant," says Campbell. "You don’t want to make something that’s just disgusting."
He then found Byrrh quinquina to mix with the deer antler extract, which has a similar flavor to a subtle cherry vermouth. Because there were no Chinese whiskeys at the time, he chose Japanese Suntory whiskey. "The subtle cherry notes blend the body into the vermouth, and then vanilla smooths that earthiness down," says Campbell. "Citrus notes and bitters brighten it up, and it’s a really enjoyable drink." For a final boost of virility, Campbell uses a microplane to freshly grate actual deer antler over the top of the cocktail.
But does it work? Well, that all depends on how much you believe in ancient Chinese wisdom — but Campbell is convinced. "The people who have had the Jing cocktail come back to tell me that they’ve felt the effects," he says. "I know that after taking deer antler extract, it restores your fight that keeps you in the game. But there’s no proof — it’s a faith thing."
At $27, the Jing is one of Dallas’s most expensive cocktails, which means that you’d better be a believer. It also happens to be an excellent, well-balanced drink, complete with a hand-chiseled chunk of ice that doubles as a stunning garnish. Should you find yourself feeling a little downtrodden — and have the cash to spare — this liquid pick-me-up might just do the trick.