HOT AND COLD TEA COCKTAILS

For this month’s cocktail selection, contributor Jesse Goldstein focuses on something that most Southerners hold dear: a glass of tea. Here he provides us with both hot and cold options that are delicious and simple to prepare—for one or for a whole group.

From Jesse:

When most think of tea and cocktails, the first thing that comes to mind is a good hot toddy. There’s nothing wrong with a classic, but if that’s the extent of your use of tea in cocktails, you’re missing out on a beautiful spectrum of flavors just waiting to be incorporated into all types of boozy beverages.

For me, a great cocktail must have balance. This most commonly comes in the form of balancing boozy sharpness with sugar and citrus, but even that can still fall flat on the palate. Think of a well-balanced cocktail like your favorite meal in a restaurant. The spices and seasonings enhance the main ingredients that make that dish so memorable. When it comes to cocktails, freshly brewed black, green, and herbal teas can impart bright herbal notes and bitter tannins that supplement just a few simple ingredients and compliment many spirits.

If you’ve read the previous blog post, Reclaiming Church Punch, you know that teas have a place in cocktail history. Much like the punches of yesteryear, these new tea cocktails can also be made in large batches for entertaining—or just a lazy weekend afternoon on the porch with friends. Just be sure to always start with fresh, high-quality teas and chill them prior to making iced cocktails.

HOT AND COLD TEA COCKTAILS

HONEY, CHAI, + RYE

The flavors of chai tea are a natural partner for the spice of good rye whiskey. In this case, I’ve made a chai syrup sweetened with honey and sugar. Once made, it will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks, so you’ll have plenty of chances to whip these up for friends and family.

2 ounces Bulleit Bourbon
½ ounce sweet vermouth (my personal favorite is Carpano Antica)
½ ounce honey chai syrup (recipe below)
¼ ounce fresh lemon juice
Strip of lemon zest

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker and fill with ice. Shake vigorously for 10-15 seconds to chill before straining into a rocks glass with a few fresh ice cubes. Express oils from lemon zest over cocktail and run around the rim of the glass before dropping into the cocktail.

HONEY CHAI SYRUP
1 ½ cups water
4 chai black tea bags
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup honey

Bring water to a boil and steep tea bags for five minutes. Remove tea bags and add honey and sugar. Stir until dissolved before transferring to a glass jar. Syrup will keep refrigerated for up to two weeks.

HOT AND COLD TEA COCKTAILS

FRESH MINT TEA JULEP

Brewing herbal teas with fresh herbs provides a brightness that you just can’t get from dried varieties. Fresh mint, thyme, and basil are three of my favorites. In this case, I’ve used fresh mint to put a little spin on the classic Mint Julep.

1 ½ ounces bourbon
4 ounces chilled fresh mint tea (recipe below)
Fresh mint for garnish

Add bourbon and mint tea to a glass with crushed ice and serve.

FRESH MINT TEA
6 sprigs fresh mint
2 cups water
¼ cup granulated sugar

Bring water to boil, remove from heat and add mint. Steep for 10 minutes before adding sugar and returning to medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, cover, remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes. Strain and transfer to a glass jar. Will keep refrigerated for up to two weeks.

HOT AND COLD TEA COCKTAILS

HIBISCUS TEA MARGARITA

I’m lucky enough to have a local market that sells dried hibiscus flowers in bulk. I use them often for making syrups and brewing tea. They result is a tart, almost cranberry-like flavor, rich in vitamin C and minerals. What better way to make a margarita feel healthy? In all seriousness, the hibiscus not only provides the much-needed acidity for a margarita that typically only comes from limes, but the final result is a bright crimson-colored cocktail that tastes even better than it looks.

1 ½ ounces good quality silver tequila
2 ounces chilled strong hibiscus tea (recipe below)
½ ounce triple sec
¼ ounce fresh lime juice
¼ ounce agave nectar (optional)

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake to chill. Transfer contents to a rocks glass and serve.

STRONG HIBISCUS TEA
¼ cup dried hibiscus flowers
1 cup water

Bring water to a boil and steep hibiscus flowers for 10 minutes before straining. Transfer to a glass container and refrigerate until needed.

HOT AND COLD TEA COCKTAILS

GREEN TEA + GENEVER

Genever gin is nothing like typical gin. The flavor is more delicate and smooth than other varieties, with herbal notes on the front and lingering citrus flavors. I’ve fallen in love with pairing it with my favorite variety of green tea; genmai-cha, which is a mix of green tea and toasted rice. The nuttiness from the toasted rice in the tea is robust and balances exceptionally well with Genever, especially when lightly sweetened with richly flavored demerara simple syrup.

1 ½ ounces chilled genmai-cha tea, brewed according to directions
1 ½ ounces Bols Genever
¼ ounce demerara simple syrup (recipe below)

Combine ingredients in a cocktail mixing glass. Fill glass with ice and stir for 15-20 seconds to chill. Strain into a cocktail glass and serve.

DEMERARA SIMPLE SYRUP
1 cup demerara sugar
1 cup water

Bring water and sugar to a boil, stirring until dissolved. Transfer to a glass bottle and refrigerate until needed. Will keep for up to one month when refrigerated.

HOT AND COLD TEA COCKTAILS

EARL GREY BRANDY TODDY

Earl Grey tea holds a special place for me. It was part of my mother’s morning ritual and I’ve loved it ever since. In my house, it’s my go-to tea and I regularly drink it both hot and iced. I love to use it to kick my colds into submission with a boozy brandy-based hot toddy.

6 ounces Earl Grey tea, brewed according to directions
1 ½ ounces brandy
1 teaspoon honey
1 wedge lemon

Add brandy and honey to hot tea. Squeeze the wedge of lemon into the tea, stir and serve.

HOT AND COLD TEA COCKTAILS

RUM, CHAMOMILE, + MAPLE TODDY

Chamomile tea is synonymous with bedtime and relaxation—which is exactly what this cocktail is perfect for. The balance of the floral chamomile tea with a nice aged rum is further enhanced with a touch of maple syrup and squeeze of fresh orange.

6 ounces chamomile tea, brewed according to directions
1 ½ ounces good-quality aged rum
½ ounce maple syrup
1 wedge orange

Add rum and maple syrup to hot tea. Squeeze the wedge of orange into the tea, stir and serve.

HOT AND COLD TEA COCKTAILS

LAPSANG SOUCHON, BLOOD ORANGE, + WHISKEY

My favorite spot for artisan tea is a little place in East Nashville called High Garden. Their variety is like nothing I’ve seen before, but I tend to gravitate towards a few favorites. One of those is lapsang souchon. It’s a smoked black tea with deep flavors similar to whiskey. Brewed and chilled, it’s a natural for a boozy, smoky whiskey cocktail.

2 ounces whiskey
2 ounces chilled lapsang souchon tea, brewed according to directions
1 ounce fresh-squeezed blood orange juice (substitute regular orange juice if needed)
1/2 ounce demerara simple syrup (recipe below)
1 slice of blood orange

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake 10-15 seconds before straining into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish with a slice of blood orange.

DEMERARA SIMPLE SYRUP
1 cup demerara sugar
1 cup water

Bring water and sugar to a boil, stirring until dissolved. Transfer to a glass bottle and refrigerate until needed. Will keep for up to one month when refrigerated.

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