Mixologists are actively experimenting with all teas, from basic black to herbal, as a flavoring element in handcrafted cocktails, in the form of tea tinctures, bitters, syrups and other infused spirits.
The use of tea as an ingredient for punches dates as far back as the 17th century.
The very early punches were large-format mixed drinks served at social events. They surrendered over time to the advent of the whole range of single-serving drinks currently revered in mixological culture: slings, bittered slings, sours, fizzes, duos and trios, etc. Today’s slow reintroduction of punch has undergone significant changes from its historic identity, being only finally ushered back into the cocktail mix.
The granddaddy of American bar celebrities, Jerry Thomas, pointed out that you can use tea in place of water in punches for added complexity. The sharp, bitter, astringent edge of tea and its herbal complexity was a precursor to the use of bitters, a defining agent in the cocktail and filling the same role in terms of drying, rounding and adding depth to a cocktail.
One tea trend gaining attention is the reemergence of tea liqueurs, triggered in the 1950s with a green tea liqueur from Japan-based Russian confectioner Morozoff.
However, the most prevalent practice in the mixological market remains the direct infusion of tea into base spirits and modifiers or the elaboration of syrups or tinctures. In this way, tea flavors selected from a large palette can be consistently applied to mixes.
Consumers certainly value new experiments in cocktails and appreciate the trend of using tea, a natural product, to enhance the bouquet of alcoholic beverages.
Mixologists and restaurateurs also see a benefit in adding tea into the bar program as a cost-reduction option. By using teas that develop composite aroma profiles, they manage not only to reduce ingredients in mixed drinks but also to practically cut the need for artificially flavored mixers. The cross-utilization of tea, that the business is already sourcing, in non-alcoholic beverages, cocktails and infusions provides a further advantage: it helps management to better control costs by reducing the number of ingredients purchased.
Mixologists and professionals in the hospitality and tourism industry at large can begin with the following guidelines as they experiment with the addition of tea to cocktails:
Gin goes well in most combinations for its floral, herbaceous, botanical qualities.
Whiskey and other dark spirits are better paired with the more oxidized, roasted teas.
Bourbon and tea form a nice partnership among cocktail enthusiasts.
Chamomile and Scotch both go well with floral, honeyed, and nutty ingredients.
Brown spirits pair exceptionally well with black tea and tisanes with spices.
Start your practical investigation with the following Earl Grey-based mix, a simply prepared cocktail that develops an unexpected flavour array:
2.00 oz Earl Grey-infused Beefeater Gin 0.75 oz Lemon Juice 0.75 oz Simple Syrup
… and continue your investigation by considering other ways to incorporate tea into mixed drinks and make your tea do double-duty!
We would love to hear about your tea-based cocktail creations, please share in the comment section below!