In Celebration of a Good Year
The events of my 2014 were exciting and life-changing. Work in the tea world was plentiful, which explains dear reader, why posts have been spotty at best. One of the projects I’ve been working on has allowed me to explore tea mixology (the craft of cocktail blending using tea as a flavour ingredient). I’m not actually a fan of spirits, but I have loved learning about the interplay of flavours to create the right balance so that tea isn’t numbed by alcohol.
There are several ways to introduce tea to spirits. The most obvious is to make a strong infusion of tea and then fine-tune the proportions of spirit to tea. Another method is to make a tea reduction. Sugar is added to a very strong infusion of tea and the mixture is boiled until the liquid reduces to approximately one third volume. The more fascinating method, and the one that I chose for this cocktail, introduces dry tea leaves directly to spirit, for a prolonged infusion. Thus, I set to work concocting a recipe for you to celebrate a fantastic year past and in anticipation of good health and happiness in 2015!
I selected Jasmine pearls for its strong aromatics and infused it in Vodka. Vodka works well for this purpose since it doesn’t have a predominant flavour.
Here are the ingredients and method for the spirit/tea infusion:
Jasmine Vodka Essence
- I tablespoon dry leaf Jasmine pearls
- 3/4 cup Vodka
- 2 clean bottles with stopper
- Put dry Jasmine pearls into bottle
- Add Vodka through a funnel into the bottle
- Put stopper in bottle and invert several times
- Leave for 24 hours, occasionally inverting the bottle to circulate the leaves.
- Pour through sieve and funnel into second clean bottle and apply stopper until ready to use.
It’s necessary to add some sort of sweetness to a cocktail to take away the medicinal flavour of the spirits (one of the reasons I can’t drink spirits ‘neat’). I had some quince in the fridge and made quince syrup – boil a peeled, chopped quince in sugared water (equal parts sugar, quince and water) for an hour and strain.
With various mixology assignments, I’ve assembled quite a collection of “bitters”. We have a wonderful cocktail emporium in Toronto, BYOB that carries every bitter you can imagine! Bitters originated as medicinal preparations of herbs infused in alcohol. They were primarily used as digestifs, but have also been employed for many years by bar tenders. Bitters makers, over the past decade, have become increasingly adventurous, adding flavours of chocolate, spices, citrus and even celery! Many new bitters companies are creating small batch hand-crafted bitters which no bar-chef would be without. Bitters have other culinary uses as well, such as in salad dressing, marinades or soups.
Shake it Up!
Here’s the cocktail recipe (makes 2 small cocktails):
- 1 1/2 oz Jasmine pearl tea-infused vodka
- 1 oz quince syrup
- 8 drops of lime bitters (I used Scrappy’s Lime Bitters)
- 3 oz club soda
- Place all ingredients in a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice
- Shake briskly for 5 to 10 seconds
- Strain into 2 cocktail glasses
- Ice is optional
- Rim glasses with lime juice and cane sugar
- Garnish with a twist of lime
- If there are no quince in your fruit market, try making a syrup with apple and pear.
- If you can’t find lime bitters, try infusing 1/4 tsp lime zest with the tea leaves and vodka
- Loose leaf Jasmine tea would also work instead of the pearls
- Mocktail: Create a strong infusion of Jasmine tea, add quince syrup, lime juice, lime zest and half as much club soda as tea
Remember the key ingredients in a cocktail are: spirit, syrup, predominant flavour (could be fruit, tea, savoury, etc). Bitters is an extra and used when you want to either tone down the sweetness or create another dimension of flavour.
Have fun! Cheers! and here’s to a 2015 that includes tea in all its forms!!