Hearing words like "smooth," "smoky," and "floral" might bring to mind thoughts of bourbon, tequila, or gin, but those terms could also describe roobios, green or black teas. The subtle similarities between teas and spirits make them perfect companions in a cocktail. Across the U.S. this summer, mixologists are capitalizing on this trend by infusing cocktails with everything from chamomile to Darjeeling.
Tim Cooper of New York’s Sweetwater Social is infusing Mt. Gay Black Barrel Rum with Ceylon black tea to create the Wu-tea-ki. Further uptown at The Gilroy, Josh Mazza is also using tea by exploiting its tannic qualities to create the green tea-infused gin in its Phil’s Collins and the rooibos-infused vodka in its Silk Road Sling. At Kelly Liken in Vail, Colorado, resident mixologist Ian Tulk is taking a different approach by adding bergamot tea in the form of ice cubes to his Spring Teaser. As the ice melts it enhances the flavor of the cocktail giving the customer something they might not expect.
Bourbon and tea form a nice partnership among cocktail enthusiasts. The combination can be found at Ink and Elm, an Atlanta restaurant serving the Under Lock and Tea using earl grey infused bourbon. If your tastes lean more toward the smokiness of Lapsang Souchong, then you might enjoy the Cease and Desist at CH Distillery in Chicago. Or, go the sweeter route and order The Old Sport at The Roger Room in Los Angeles to experience black tea-laced soho lychee liqueur mixed with gin and refreshing cucumber juice.
However you mix it, tea offers a new dimension of flavor and complexity giving mixologists across the country a whole new set of ingredients to add to their arsenal.
The Roger Room
Cocktail: Old Sport
In the Old Sport we used the black tea to create balanced flavor. The Soho Liqueur is sweet and the tea matches the sweet with dry and an overall depth of flavor.
1 1/2 oz Botanist Gin
1 oz Cucumber Juice
3/4 oz Lime Juice
2 Spoon Agave Nectar
Add ice, Shake, serve up
Garnish with a cucumber slice
"Whether infusing or making a syrup, tea has always been one of my favorite ways to add complexity & flavor to cocktails. Some of my favorite combinations are jasmine pearl green tea with gin and black tea with aged rum." Tim Cooper - Partner & Mixologist
2oz Ceylon black tea infused Mt. Gay Black Barrel Rum*
.5oz Lemon Demerara Syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters
2 dashes Hella Citrus bitters
- shake all ingredients with 1 ice cube. Strain into 9oz ceramic cup. Add crushed ice. Garnish with mint sprig.
*2oz of high quality loose leaf Ceylon black tea per 750ml bottle of rum. Let sit for 45 minutes and then strain tea out.
Cocktail: The Baron Takes Tea
“Infusing tea, in particular smokey tea, adds another layer of flavor and complexity to gin and vodka cocktails - almost mirroring a Scotch profile.” Krissy Schutte
2 earl grey infused CH key gin
3/4 simple syrup
Cocktail: Spring Teaser
“The Spring teaser is an intriguing cocktail because the flavors change as you are enjoying the drink. As the Bergamot ice tea cubes melt more of that flavor is released. Guests really enjoy being able to taste the difference between the beginning of the drink and the end"-- Ian Tulk - Mixologist
1.5 oz Breckenridge Bourbon
1 oz rosemary honey simple
3 bergamot Tea Ice cubes
.5 oz egg white
dash whiskey barrel bitters
Shake, strain into Collins, garnish rosemary sprig
Cocktail: Louisiana Rosebud (pictured top)
rose bud tea syrup
Reagan's bitters chilled in a coupe with a rose bud
NYC-based tea blogger Jennifer Brosnan is a contributor to TravelandLeisure.com.
Photos courtesy of Eric Shani, Anthony Thornton Photography, CH Distillery, Juli Ferrena