Who said tea is boring?
The stereotype of the famous brew being the drink of choice for cardigan-clad grannies is on the wane, thanks to the inventive way teas are now being used to create unusual new cocktails.
Tea-infused cocktails with intriguing sounding names like "The Brute Force", "Miss Salinger" and "Booty Collins" have been steadily making their way onto drink menus around the world. Crafty mixologists are infusing cocktails with everything from Earl Grey to chamomile and Darjeeling, with teas also now being offered like wine or cocktails in some establishments.
While the concept of mixing tea and alcohol isn't new, you'll find evidence of tea's growing popularity in hip bars from New York to Sydney and beyond.
America's top-rated cocktail bar, Dead Rabbit, in New York, is one of the bars jumping on the tea cocktail trend. It offers concoctions including the Brute Force, a $16 cocktail made of green tea with tequila Blanco, Jamaican overproof rum, lime, pear, almond and Absinthe.
At The Tippler, also in New York, you can order a "Booty Collins" featuring green tea infused vodka, passionfruit, lemon, cayenne and soda. If a shot is more your thing, try "The Northern Comfort", made of peach and hibiscus tea-infused bourbon, honey and lime.
At Sydney'sEau-De-Vie, you can try out a 20 AUD (15 USD) "Miss Salinger". According to the menu, this creation is "inspired by … high-tea ceremonies of old" mixed with the establishment's "flair". The drink apparently started out as a Bellini before being mixed with gin which has been tea-infused, sparkling wine, peach wine and almond syrup.
If you're visiting Chicago, check out Unite Urban Grill for the "Penicillin", which infuses Lavender green tea syrup with blended scotch and lemon.
What's behind the trend?
As more and more people become increasingly health conscious and switch to a clean lifestyle, these tea-based cocktails are seen as a healthier alternative to the usual waist-expanding tipples such as sugar-laden Mojitos or creamy Chocolate Mudslides.
The tea cocktail trend has also been driven by a growing awareness about tea's health benefits.
According to this report by Today.com, health benefits include the presence of antioxidants, which help keep us young and protect us from damage caused by pollution. Tea may also reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, help with weight loss, protect bones and boost the immune system.
We are more health-conscious than ever – just look at the rise of organic food, for example. According to Julie Brument, co-owner at The Nine, in Sydney's Bondi, this health "effect" has extended to the bar scene.
"People are more and more careful about what they consume. They want Fair Trade, organic spirits, less sugar, and interesting fruit and vegetable combinations," Brument said in this report.
The Nine, a small produce-driven café, eatery and wine bar, also offers tea cocktails including the "Quinoa Fizz", made with organic quinoa vodka, kombucha, apple, basil, lemon and pepper.
The ideal base
Tea is the ideal base for imparting unique flavors, textures and combinations. As the flavor can range from subtle to strong, and tea contains no sugar, the brew is perfect for cocktails, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.
Teas which are ideal for cocktails include distinctive flavored brews such as Darjeeling, Oolong, South African rooibos and Japanese green tea. Floral teas such as hibiscus and chamomile are also well-suited. These teas are best paired with alcohols such as white rum, vodka and flavoured liqueurs.
Smart marketers are also jumping on the tea cocktail bandwagon, with ready-made tea mixers now for sale. They include Owl's Brew, which manufactures five tea flavors which can be mixed with vodka, tequila, rum, whiskey, gin or champagne.
If you'd like to make your own tea cocktails, try out one (or all) of the recipes below. Cheers!
Green Tea with Champagne (6 glasses)
8 teaspoons of green tea
4 tsp sugar
2 cups water
Pear and apple slices
1 bottle of cava
Method: Infuse tea in 1 cup of water at 70 degrees for 3 minutes. Strain. Incorporate the remaining cup of water and dissolve the sugar. Serve in tall glasses with ice, fruit slices and mint. Fill with ice cold cava. Enjoy!
Iced Rooibos Cocktail (1 glass)
4 oz. concentrate made of Rooibos tea
4 oz. syrup
4 oz. Honey Bourbon
8-10 mint leaves and some lemon slices for garnish
To make the concentrate: Pour 4 cups of boiling water over 6 tea bags or (6 tbsp of loose leaf rooibos). Let it steep for up to 4 minutes and strain if using loose leaf tea. Measure 4 oz and refrigerate the leftover concentrate.
Method: Combine and stir all ingredients well. Pour over ice and garnish with lemon slices.
The Owl and the Mule (1 glass)
3 oz. Owl's Brew The Classic
1.5 oz. vodka
Method: Shake The Classic and vodka with ice. Pour into a Collins glass and top with ginger beer. Garnish with candied ginger or a lime peel.
Cimpago Island Tea (1 glass)
30ml Hibiscus Tea
30ml orange juice
Method: Combine and stir all ingredients and pour over ice. Garnish with orange rind.
Whisky Tango Cocktail (non-alcoholic, 2 glasses)
2 Twinings Pure Peppermint tea bags
240ml freshly boiled water
40ml Monin vanilla syrup
60ml apple juice
Mint leaves to garnish
Method: Brew tea bags for 2 minutes. Fill 2 highball glasses with ice and add vanilla syrup (2 pumps or 20ml) into each one. Pour over 30ml of apple juice into each glass. Pour the hot tea over the ice. Stir well, finish with a straw and garnish with some fresh mint leaves.
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