The welcome resurgence of tea-based cocktails

January 21, 2012

I started writing this article some time ago but it got shelved due to time constraints. I had observed  that tea-based cocktails were coming into fashion – or I should say back into fashion. Now they have become so ubiquitous in all the trendy bars that I feel I can put off writing it no longer.

The practice of cocktails – that is to say blending spirits and other ingredients – does not seem to have gained much popularity until the mid 1800s and ironically it wasn’t until the days of prohibition in the 1930s that people actually started congregating to drink them. Some from the period we may still recognise, like the Old Fashioned, or the Sidecar but many others have subsequently fallen out of favour.

A selection of the kind of lurid, tecnhicolour cocktails popularised in the 1980s

As with many men, back in the 80s when my father had more hair and less of a paunch, he used to play barman and throw extravagant cocktail parties for his other yuppie friends. Growing up I remember leafing through all his glossy books filled with wonderfully lurid drinks in exotic glasses. The White Russian, the Pink Lady, the Gin Fizz, the Harvey Wallbanger, the Tequila Sunrise and the Singapore Sling. They were usually very colourful, very sweet and by today’s standards – like a lot of 80s popular culture – very tasteless.

Serving up a storm in a teacup: the growing trend for tea-based cocktails

Some cocktails called for small quantities of cold tea, such as Earl Gray, to be thrown into the mix – probably the most famous example being the Long Island Iced Tea. Rather like adding Angostura Bitters, the effect is to make the drink a little more savoury, a little more tannic, a little more interesting and a little more shall we say grown up. In contrast to the cloyingly sweet cocktails and ‘alcopops’ of the 90s and early naughties it is easy to see why these flavours are now reappearing on the cocktail menus.

Obviously at Noveltea we’re very partial to tea and not impartial to cocktails either so this fusion is right up our street. In addition to our usual research of finding decent tea rooms we have been on the look out for places serving good tea cocktails. The best so far is probably Papajis lively bar-cum-tearoom in Bristol who serve a selection of delicious aromatic cocktails including one particularly interesting one based around hot sake.

If you stumble upon any good tea-based cocktails then please do let us know. In the meantime here are some recipes for you to try at home:

1) The Oolong Moojito

  • 2 parts rum
  • generous squeeze of fresh lime juice
  • unrefined/cane sugar or sugar syrup
  • fresh mint
  • 2-3 tsp cooled Oolong tea
  • 1-2 drops of soda water to taste

The tricky thing about mojitos is the lack of mixers, which can make it a bit difficult to gauge quantities. The trick is to be generous with a good quality white or golden rum and buy plenty more limes and mint than you think you need.

Smack the mint leaves between the palms of your hands and muddle in the glass with the lime juice and sugar. If you don’t like the granular texture of the sugar then consider making up a litre or two of sugar syrup (boil water and sugar and allow to cool) which has a practically indefinite shelf-life in the fridge.  Add the tea. Fill the glass with ice, top with a small quantity of soda water and stir. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.

 

2) a REAL long Island Iced Tea

  • 1 part vodka
  • 1 part tequila
  • 1 part light rum
  • 1 part dart rum
  • 1 part tripple sec
  • 1 part cold Earl Gray
  • Good squeeze of lemon
  • Coke

There are 101 recipes for Long Island Iced Tea but trust us, this is the daddio. Coke is NOT a main ingredient of this drink and it is a big mistake to use too much. It is only used to top up the last finger or two in order to add colour and to carbonate the drink. You will need to invest in several different spirits. I like to spread it over several different shopping trips so as to conceal the cost.

Place all the ingredients (except for the Coke) in a shaker with ice and mix thoroughly for at least 30 seconds. Top a tall tumbler up to the brim with fresh ice cubes and pour over the mixture. Finish with Coke and a sprig of mint.

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