Tea Time

How to give your cocktails a calming edge


Forget using tea just as a mixer. It's time to graduate to at-home infusions, steeping your spirits in a calming, cleansing, energizing dose of Earl Grey or jasmine. The resulting liquor will bear a fresh, herbaceous edge that adds earthiness and support to tropical fruit, vermouth, or bitters.

In his treatise on green cocktails and sustainable spirits, Organic, Shaken and Stirred, beverage guru Paul Abercrombie offers simple instructions on how to achieve tea-infused bliss all on your own, along with tea-centric updates on the classics. Abercrombie suggests sticking to organic alcohol whenever possible, citing the ultimate in mixology wisdom: "No drink ever rises above the quality of its ingredients."
Related link
If tea isn't your bag (sorry), don't miss Abercrombie's take on other ways to get the most out of fresh fruit flavors in your cocktails, especially his intruiging instructions to break out the grill.

Green Tea Infused Vodka

Combine 1 teaspoon organic green tea leaves or 1 tea bag of organic green tea with 1 cup organic vodka and let steep for two hours. Strain or remove the tea bag; the vodka will keep in an airtight container in a cool place or the fridge for up to 6 months.

Pear Tea Martini

2 oz Green tea-infused organic vodka
2 oz Pear cider
1 slice Pear, unpeeled

Combine the infused vodka and cider in an ice-cube filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously, then strain the mixture into a chilled martini glass. Gently drop in the pear slice.

Earl Grey Infused Rum

Combine 1 tea bag Earl Grey tea and 8 oz of rum and let steep for 1 hour. Remove the tea bag, then pour the mixture into an airtight container. The infused rum can be stored in a cool place or refrigerated for up to 6 months.

Earl Grey Boxcar

1 1/2 oz Earl Grey infused Rum
1/2 oz Punt e Mes Italian vermouth
1/2 oz fresh organic pineapple juice
1/2 oz freshly squeezed organic lemon juice
1/2 oz freshly squeezed organic lime juice
1/4 oz apricot brandy
Dash of Angostura bitters
1 thin slice of organic lemon

Pour the infused rum, vermouth, fruit juices, brandy, and bitters into an ice cube-filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously, then strain the mixture into a martini glass and garnish with the lemon slice.

Recipes reprinted from Organic, Shaken and Stirred by Paul Abercrombie, courtesy of Harvard Common Press, 2010.

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  • Snooth User: Philip James
    Founding Member Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    1 12,575

    I have always shied away from Tea infused drinks, as I'm unable to tell if they contain caffeine, and the bartenders tend not to know themselves. The jasmine tea is probably caffeine free though.

    Aug 11, 2010 at 5:17 AM

  • Snooth User: Carly Wray
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    196958 864

    an excellent point -- i once had a green tea-lemonade-vodka punch at a party that appeared to pack so much caffeine it was like the kinder, gentler version of a vodka-Redbull.

    Aug 11, 2010 at 9:06 AM

  • Tea, true tea, actually comes from a plant called camellia sinensis. In addition to containing many things that are very good for you, camellia sinensis also naturally contains caffeine.
    As a result, anytime black teas, oolong teas, or green teas are used in your beverage there will be some caffeine associated with the drink.

    Keep in mind, however, that botanical blends are different!
    Rooibos (a South African herb often referred to as "red tea" in the U.S.), honeybush, and dried fruit and herbs are all naturally caffeine-free. So if your liquor is infused with an herbal/botanical blend - you're good to go!

    For your reference in the future:
    Black tea (which is also the base tea in Earl Grey) contains the most caffeine.
    Then oolong and pu-erh teas.
    Then green teas.
    And there will be significantly less caffeine in most white teas.

    How much caffeine is in your drink will also depend upon the temperature at which it is infused.
    Hotter temperatures = much more caffeine. Cooler or cold infusion temperatures will result in considerably less.

    For those seeking caffeine-free "tea" cocktails, I recommend blends like Cinnamon Plum (infuse into apple cider and add brandy), Blueberry Rooibos, or blends containing currants, hibiscus, apples, figs, licorice root, or dried berries for lovely full-bodied infusions!

    Aug 11, 2010 at 1:52 PM

  • Snooth User: Chelsey E
    Hand of Snooth
    492205 255

    I've used red chai (rooibos) which has no caffeine make tea infused vodka that's quite tasty with lemon and simple syrup. Earl Grey sounds nice too, must try.

    Aug 11, 2010 at 3:17 PM

  • I make what I call Laphroig Ultra... one cup of Laphroig 10 year old single malt scotch infused with 1 Tablespoon Lapsang Souchong black tea. Packs an incredible smoky, peaty punch, full of caffine. Really nice over ice.

    Aug 11, 2010 at 4:46 PM

  • Snooth User: Carly Wray
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    196958 864

    @flyonfriday - that sounds amazing ... I've been reading about Chai Naya, which I may have to try this weekend ... loose black tea and vodka in glass jars. Sounds hardcore but intruiging ...

    Aug 11, 2010 at 4:50 PM

  • Snooth User: MsGoGo
    520686 2

    Great suggestions for tea-infused drinks especially the Laphroig since that's my drink 'o choice.

    Aug 11, 2010 at 8:17 PM

  • Snooth User: Philip James
    Founding Member Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    1 12,575

    FlyOnFriday - can you still taste that its Laphroig with the tea in it? My father's a big Islay fan, not sure he'd be happy to hear people tampering with it (he won't even use ice, just a splash of room temperature water to bring out the flavor)

    Aug 12, 2010 at 3:36 PM

  • Fly/Carly: Just went to an event with the Laphroaig ambassador present and a bartender from the area asked him to sample a "smokey martini," which was essentially a splash of Laphroaig on chilled vodka. I like Fly's concept better and may experiment. Philip: 10-20 minutes after you drain the 10 Y.O. your tastebuds are still dominated by "activated charcoal" finish. I'm interested in trying fly's "Ultra" with other Islay malts and maybe Mugi-cha (barley tea) or even a tea with some ume (pickled plum).

    Aug 13, 2010 at 6:39 PM

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