Eastern Exposure

Eastern Exposure

My interest was piqued when I started hearing a drumbeat of suggestions to head to The Best Liquor Store in Milford. But it was the recommendation of Skurnik sake expert Janine Sacco, who touted the shop as having the most extensive Asian inventory around, that finally convinced me to check it out for myself.

Located on Cherry Street not far from the Post Road, Best Liquor’s home, Milford Plaza, looks more or less like a standard strip mall, housing a mishmash of independent and chain businesses. Looking more closely, though, I noticed a synchronistic mix of East Asian storefronts: grocery store G Mart, boba cafe The Whale Tea, forthcoming hot pot/dim sum restaurant Old Street and, of course, The Best Liquor Store.

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Behind Best’s counter was owner Lynx LaCroix, who jumped at the chance to give me a tour. While the metal shelves flanking the room were meticulously stocked with wine, domestic beer and familiar liquor categories, my eyes were on a central column of tables packed with a staggering diversity of bottles from all over Asia. This impressive collection has been building since the store’s opening a year ago, albeit not easily; LaCroix says Connecticut has one of the toughest regimes to navigate when it comes to importing liquor. Nonetheless, “The goal is to keep adding each year,” he says. “Little by little we are going to represent as much of Asia as possible.”

LaCroix soon had me tasting a variety of liquids mysterious to me. First was Ming River Sichuan Baijiu, a clear sorghum-based spirit distilled with native Sichuan aromatics; LaCroix compares it to “new-world style” gin. Thanks to his leg work, baijiu (the most consumed spirit in the world, he says, despite long being unknown in these parts) is getting a foothold in Connecticut. Fluent in Mandarin after living in China, LaCroix has forged a symbiotic relationship with the Chinese staffers in the grocery next door, bringing in their favorite booze from back home. Clientele from the Philippines and Korea have also been submitting their requests. Somehow, it took a full year to bring in lager by Terra, South Korea’s favorite beer brand.

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After sipping on a lychee-flavored Korean soju that was refreshing, light and perfumy—and could easily star in low-ABV cocktails—the standout experience of my visit was an introduction to Okinawan awamori, Japan’s “oldest distilled alcoholic drink” and essentially a less processed version of shōchū. I would have stayed to sample some of the Filipino, Korean and Indian beers—or the Japanese whiskies, green tea plum wines, yuzu liqueurs and sakes—but then I would have had to call an Uber. I did purchase, to go, a single serving of sake, packaged like a juice box and so adorable that I couldn’t stop smiling.

The recommendations, it seems, were correct. If you have a nostalgic, an academic or, as most of us do, a gustatory interest in the vast world of Asian alcoholic beverages, The Best Liquor Store is probably the best place around.

The Best Liquor Store
171 Cherry St, Milford (map)
Mon-Sat 10am-7pm, Sun 10am-6pm

Written and photographed by Katie Lloyd. Image 1 features Lynx LaCroix.

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