Pinkies Up: Sip These Tea-Infused Cocktails (That Aren't Long Islands)
Some of our fondest memories is of our mom brewing sun tea in the SoCal sunshine—and the delicious brew that would ensue after hours of basking in the summer swelter. Thankfully, now that we're big kids, there are new ways to enjoy iced tea beyond the Arnold Palmer.
And no, we're not talking Long Islands—which actually have no tea in them at all. (We do have some scruples.) A few establishments in L.A. are using tea leaves as an accompaniment to cocktails, and the results are delicious.
Though craft coffee has made waves in the local and national scene as of late, some bartenders and avid tea drinkers think the use of coffee in cocktails is passé, and believe that the roasted beans aren't ideal for imbibers looking for more nuanced flavors.
"Coffee cocktails are a thing of the past," says William Binder, the bartender who created the tea cocktails at the SoHo House. "Although you can do several recipes with coffee, the most standout flavor will always be coffee. With tea, your palate is opened up to limitless possibilities of flavor. Mixed with different base spirits and ingredients, the combinations are endless."
At SoHo —the premiere, members-only club with locations in both West Hollywood, Miami, and NYC—Binder has tapped into the tea trend with the Tea & Flowers cocktail, which uses gin paired with elderflower liquor, lemon juice, simple syrup, a blend of citron and jasmine green teas, and soda water.
For Sevilla, green tea is ideal because it can go with any base spirit in a cocktail, but he loves tea because you can dictate how bold the flavor is depending on the amount of tea you use.
Steve Schwartz, Founder & Master Tea Blender from Art of Tea, prefers infusions done with chamomile or Earl Grey.
"Those two teas that hold up well," he says. "The bergamot oil in Earl Grey cuts through the astringency of gin and rounds out the finish with bright citrus and fresh floral notes." Chamomile blossoms, on the other hand, make for a more floral, honeyed profile and a fuller mouth feel.
Schwartz simply suggests blending tea with the spirits, doing a three-minute steep (½ teaspoon of tea to every ½ cup of water), and then letting cool for three minutes. Then mix with the gin (2 parts brewed tea to 2 parts gin), stir with agave, strain, and top with fresh lime wheels—if you can afford them, that is.
True to form, bartender Matthew Biancaniellois going for a bit more involved application for his upcoming collaboration with the American Tea Room, a luxury emporium in Beverly Hills that recently announced plans for a second location in the Arts District in Downtown L.A.
Biancaniello's tea and cocktail pop-up on June 19 will feature Barr Hill Gin infused with ultra-high end First Flush Darjeeling infused, the mixed with with blackberries and Black Peruvian mint, and then topped with a rare hand-picked Japanese Shincha infused Saint Germain foam. He'll also be making a Moroccan-inspired cocktail called the Tangier with Apricot Black Tea-infused 123 Tequila, blenheim apricots, and shiso as well as a Masala Chai Vodka with condensed milk.
It seems that everyone has their own opinion on what variety works best when it comes to making drinks with tea.
"For me, green tea is ideal because it can go with any base spirit in a cocktail," says Sevilla. "But actually all teas are great to use in cocktails. There is such a wide variety of flavors."
So in other words, start steeping.