Some bartenders are taking advantage of theexplosion of bottled-tea products to tweaktheir cocktail programs, while others, hewingto a do-it-yourself culinary approach, arecrafting their own teas, tea infusions, syrupsor tinctures for use in drinks.Since the Clock Bar’s opening at theSt. Francis Hotel in San Francisco two yearsago, one of the most-popular drinks is theEnglishBreakfast,madewithEarlGrey-infusedgin, Grand Marnier, orange marmalade, freshlemon juice and egg white, topped with a sprayof black-tea liqueur. At Buddakan in New YorkCity, bartender Joe Thompson serves theTranquility, made with citrus vodka andlemon-grass-infused oolong tea.Tea as a bar ingredient has become popularenough to sustain an annual cocktailcompetition at the World Tea Expo, held inLas Vegas every June. The three-day business-to-business show and conference hosted thecompetition ﬁnals last year, which turned outto be a big hit, says George Jage, president of the World Tea Expo. The winner, BeverageManager Max Solano of Emeril Lagasse’sTable 10 in Las Vegas, whipped up GenevrierVerte, a mix of blackberry-jasmine iced greentea, lemonade, gin, coca-leaf liqueur,vanilla/clove syrup and fresh lime juice.Tea’s attraction is on many levels. “Tea canadd a wide variety of things to a beverage ordish,” says Cynthia Gold, tea sommelier at TheBoston Park Plaza Hotel. “What catches theguest’s interest is usually the documentedhealth beneﬁts of tea, but what interests me arethe ﬂavor proﬁles, textures and aromatics. Theyare tremendously fun to play with. You can usetea to add brightness, add depth or complexity,balance or highlight different ﬂavors ortextures. The possibilities are endless.”Gold notes that balance is key whenintroducing any ingredient; the resultingdrink should not taste too strongly of tea.“It just needs to be altered for the better insome way that you could not have achievedwithout the tea,” she says.Tea’s entry into bar programs has bemusedsome in the tea world. “It’s sort of a paradox touseteaasamixerinabarenvironment,withteahaving such a healthful reputation, but as thebar has opened up to a range of mixers, tea withalcoholcreatesasortofyinandyang,”saysJage.The Boston Park Plaza, where Gold workswith an exceptional tea menu, is well knownfor offering “tea cuisine” dishes, such asjasmine-tea-cured salmon, tea-rubbed porktenderloin and tea-infused port. She’s createda full line of tea cocktails and signature teablends served at the hotel’s Afternoon Tea, inaddition to her signature white port, infusedwith black tea, lavender and rose petals. HerTea Nog, a traditional egg nog enhanced withtea and spiced rum, is an annual winterfavorite at the hotel.Other beverage folk, newer to the culinaryand mixology potential of tea, are just asinterested in its properties.
Mixologists appreciate tea’s ﬂavors, texturesand aromas in mixeddrinks, and its healthbeneﬁts help sales.