Above: Elixer (courtesy Anthony Meade)
From New York's Summit Bar to Honeycut in Los Angeles, from the Aria Resort in Las Vegas to the Alembic in San Francisco, the leaf is adding luster to a cocktail bar near you. “Using tea is magical,” says Rodrick Markus, president and master tea blender of Chicago’s Rare Tea Cellar, which supplies more than 800 of the country’s top bars and restaurants. “It allows you to create another flavor, spice, or nuance that goes fantastic with booze.”
Charles Joly, the James Beard Award–winning mixologist who now runs the beverage program at chef Grant Achatz’s Chicago cocktail lounge, the Aviary, says teas offer an “endless array of flavor profiles: floral chamomile, dried fruit, tannic...all the way to smoky.” Pop by the Fulton Market lounge and order the Tea in Trinidad, which combines Trinidadian rum, verjus rouge, and gingerbread rooibos tea (from Rare Tea Cellar, natch) that forces out the aroma in dramatic style via dry ice at the table.
A few miles away at Tippling Hall, the renowned Tippling Bros. (a.k.a. Tad Carducci and Paul Tangguay) are known for their Booty Collingm a floral, earthy green tea passion fruit cocktail. But that may take a backseat to their Big Nose Gets Lei’ed. This fresh take on Sex on the Beach is a kegged concoction of blended tea, dried melon, and flowers, a perfect spring-into-summer sipper that could easily lead to a little play — whether on the beach or somewhere you’re less likely to get sand in unwanted places.
Since opening in 2011, Elixir, one of the only intimate cocktail haunts on the bustling Halsted strip in Boystown, has featured its wonderfully delicious and intoxicating Bourbon Shrub. The cocktail features W.L. Weller bourbon, Earl Grey tea, a housemade pineapple shrub, and fresh lemon juice, and could cause a revolt if it were ever removed from the menu.
So, how do you take your tea?
HOLD THE MILK... get your greens: Two Recipes
Courtesy of Elixir
2 oz. W.L. Weller Special Reserve, 7-Year-Old
1/2 oz. pineapple shrub
1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice 1 oz. black tea
Shake slightly, strain over fresh ice, and garnish with a sprig of rosemary.
To make pineapple shrub: Infuse a bottle of apple cider vinegar with pineapple rind for a week, strain, and balance with a 1-to-1 ratio of simple syrup.
Courtesy of Tippling Hall
2 oz. green tea-infused vodka
1 oz. passionfruit purée
1 oz. lemon juice
1 oz. agave nectar or simple syrup
Pinch cayenne powder
5 drops yohimbe extract (optional)
Shake all ingredients except club soda with ice. Strain into an ice-filled, tall glass. Top with club soda and stir. Garnish with an orange slice and brandied cherry.
What's the Owl's Brew
Want a tasty tea cocktail without the din of a crowded bar? Owl’s Brew (TheOwlsBrew.com) is a blend of tea, fruit, herbs, water, and agave specifically made for mixing with booze. Its sexy black bottles, which also now come in handy mini-bar sizes, evoke rum-drinking pirates at sea and come in three flavors: the Classic (English breakfast tea with citrus); Pink & Black (Darjeeling with hibiscus, lemon, and strawberry); and the Coco-Lada (black tea, chai spice, pineapple, and coconut). Just add them to vodka, gin, rum, or bourbon and get the party started.
Image courtesy of Owl's Brew