It’s the height of summer, and these long, hot days practically beg us to get a bit more creative with our liquid refreshment. If you still haven’t gotten around to making a few tea cocktails to dazzle your guests at a summer soirée, now’s the time to try.
Tea can be introduced into your cocktail by infusing the leaves into the spirit, by using brewed tea or tea concentrate as a mixer, by infusing tea into a simple syrup, or by using tea ice cubes. Vodka or gin are great places to start with creating a tea-infused spirit: steep 1/2 cup of jasmine tea or 1/2 cup of Earl Grey tea in a 750 ml bottle of vodka or gin for a few hours (some say up to a couple of days, but in my experience, that’s a bit long), strain using cheesecloth, and store.
Aside from spirits, a few basic building blocks will help give you the flexibility to get creative: simple syrups, garnishes, and tea ice cubes provide endless possibilities. Make a simple syrup by bringing 1 cup of sugar and a 1/2 cup water to boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Cool and store for up to 2 weeks. The cool thing with simple syrups is that you can steep tea, ginger, citrus, herbs, spices, flower petals, and practically anything else you can think of in the syrup. My favorite ingredients for simple syrups to use for tea cocktails are ginger, citrus, and lychees.
For garnishes, unfurled (or even rolled) tea leaves make great garnishes, as do matcha / flower / zest-laced sugar, lychees, graham-cracker rims, pomegranate seeds, or flowers / petals. The choices are endless, so think outside the cherry (or olive)!
To get you started, here are a couple of simple, unique cocktails that everyone loved at the last tea cocktail tasting we hosted:
Kentucky Green Tea
While it may sound extremely odd (and extravagant) to use a meaty gyokuro in a bourbon cocktail, you might be surprised at how well the savory tea and bourbon commingle:
1 oz gyokuro or kabuse concentrate, chilled
1 oz Jim Beam or other bourbon
1 tsp of honey, or to taste
Shake in a cocktail shaker and pour over ice. Garnish with lime slice.
1 oz jasmine-infused vodka
1/2 oz St. Germaine
1/2 oz lychee syrup
Drop of ginger juice*
Shake ingredients in cocktail shaker with ice, strain into a glass, top with seltzer water, and garnish with jasmine pearls.
* You can make ginger juice by finely pulverizing ginger in a food processor, placing the pulp in cheesecloth, and squeezing out the juice.