April 17, 2015

The onset of warm weather calls for cool, refreshing cocktails and drinks, but instead of spending a bunch on prepared mixers or fancy elixirs, look to tea to bring nuanced, natural flavor to this season's sippers. In this 3-part series, I’ll explore techniques for raising the bar on tea cocktails (and provide an equally refreshing alcohol-free version).

No.1: The Earl’s Iced Tea

I’m an avid tea drinker and usually choose it over coffee for my morning brew. I also have been known to partake of a cocktail or two in the evening—and especially love a pre-dinner gin and tonic. So that got me to thinking: What about putting gin and tea together? Between the herbs and juniper berries used to flavor gin during the distilling process and the antioxidant rich and aromatic essence of tea leaves, a mash-up of the two ingredients seems like a natural pairing.

Earl Grey, a black tea with fragrant floral notes and mild citrus flavor from the oil of the rinds of bergamot oranges, is the perfect tea for this cocktail idea. I like starting with a quality loose whole-leaf tea, like this one from my friends at Bellocq tea.

I decided to soak the tea in the gin at room temperature to infuse this tea's distinct and heady flavors right into the liquid.

It doesn't take long. Let the tea steep for about 3 hours. Taste along the way. It may take a little bit longer or shorter depending on the tea you use. By the way, this stuff is ah-maze-ing all on its on. (I'm thinking it might also make a great martini—I will let you know.)

Earl Grey–Infused Gin

1 1/2 cups distilled gin

3 tablespoons loose whole-leaf Earl Grey tea

Combine ingredients in a clean glass jar. Cover with lid, and steep 3 hours. Strain; discard solids.

 

Now it's tea time!

The Earl’s Iced Tea

Teatotalers! I've got you covered. Substitute 3 ounces double strength brewed cooled Earl Grey tea in place of the gin for an equally delightful and alcohol-free mocktail version of this refreshing drink.

3 ounces Earl Grey–Infused Gin

6 ounces Honey Syrup*

2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Ice

Seltzer

Fresh mint sprigs

1/2 orange, cut into thin wedges

1/2 lemon, thinly sliced

Combine the gin, syrup, and juices in a cocktail shaker filled with ice.  Stir. Strain over ice-filled glasses. Top each glass with seltzer, and garnish with fresh mint, orange wedges, and lemon slices.

Serves 2 (serving size: 1 drink)CALORIES 138; FAT 0.1g (sat 0g, mono 0g, poly 0g); PROTEIN 0g; CARB 11g; FIBER 0g; CHOL 0mg; IRON 0mg; SODIUM 1mg; CALC 3mg

* To make Honey Syrup: Heat 1/2 cup honey and 1/2 cup water in a saucepan over medium heat until dissolved (don't boil).  Cool completely. Keep refrigerated for up to 3 weeks.

 

Inspired by that Earl Grey flavor? Let it infuse your desserts with flavor, too, in these recipes:

Lemon-Earl Grey Squares

Earl Grey Gelato

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