As we stand on summer’s doorstep, tea’s fragrant aromas and varied flavors are the perfect accent to a revitalizing cool cocktail.
The mixture of tea and alcohol dates back at least to the expansion of colonial trade routes by European empires in the 17th century. From society parlors to pirate ships, there were plenty of punches served that called for both ingredients.
But while teas and tisanes (combinations of dried fruits, flowers and herbs) can make delicious beverages, they also contain the same tannins found in red wine and barrel-aged spirits. Left to steep too long, they exhibit a bitter astringency that can overwhelm an otherwise good drink.
To avoid this problem, I am a proponent of high-volume and relatively quick infusions, which extract a tremendous amount of flavor and minimize the sharper, drier notes. Start with a standard 750-mL bottle of liquor (light rum, vodka, pisco, vermouth or even whiskey works) and add four to five tablespoons of a single-variety tea that you enjoy. (A lovely oolong from China’s ancient Phoenix mountain range is ideal.) Close the bottle, shake a few times, let sit for between 60 and 90 minutes and then strain. It is useful, of course, to taste test along the way.
Alternatively, you can make an infused syrup: one part brewed tea, one part sugar. Bolder and brighter varieties like lavender, hibiscus and citrus will stand out best. This is an equally efficient technique and less of a commitment. You then use the syrup to lightly sweeten a cocktail, as in my Scarlet Glow (pictured above).
If you’re daring, adding tea leaves directly to the mixing glass can result in greatness, too, though I have only succeeded with matcha, the precious powdered green tea from Japan. (Try it in my 14 Hours Ahead.)
Whichever method you choose, tea cocktails marry two classic traditions and offer resounding stimulation, refreshment and humanity on a sultry evening.
Contributed by Allen Katz
- 2 oz Pisco
- .5 oz Yellow Chartreuse
- .75 oz Fresh grapefruit juice
- .5 oz Hibiscus tea syrup (one part sugar, one part brewed hibiscus tea)
- Glass: Old Fashioned
Add all the ingredients to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake, and strain into an Old Fashioned glass filled with fresh ice.
14 Hours Ahead
Contributed by Allen Katz
- 1.5 oz Gin
- .75 oz Fresh lemon juice
- .75 oz Fresh lime juice
- .5 oz Honey syrup (one part honey, one part water)
- .5 oz Heavy cream
- 1 tsp Matcha (powdered green tea)
- Glass: Collins
Add all the ingredients to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake maniacally and then shake some more until well chilled. Strain into a Collins glass filled with fresh ice. Serve with a straw.
Allen Katz is the director of mixology & spirits education for Southern Wine & Spirits of New York. He is also a Liquor.com advisor.