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Tea and Cocktails

Tea and Cocktails

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Published by applejak

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Published by: applejak on Apr 09, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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     P     A     R     K     P     L     A     Z     A     H     O     T     E     L
Green tea, lemon grass and grapefruit juice are mixed withchampagne for a Citrus Teaser at The Boston Park Plaza Hotel.
Winter 2010
hen Rye House opened in Manhattan latelast fall, a quick glance at the drink menugave many indications that this was a barwhere cocktails were taken seriously. The list of bourbonsand ryes is appropriately long, befitting the establishment’sname, and the cocktail menu is lled with thecontemporary bartender’s favorite ingredients: bitters,house infusions, amaros, egg whites.Taking prime position is the Rye House Punch,featuring chai-infused rye along with lemon, grapefruit,bitters and absinthe. It’s just another sign that tea, in allits guises — chai, black, green, white, herbal tisanes, fruit-flavored, smoked is increasingly moving onto thecocktail-ingredient list.
It’s not a revolutionary change; Colonial-era Americanpunch recipes, now returning to the bar scene, weretraditionally built on a base of freshly brewed tea that knittogether the tang of citrus, a bit of sugar and the zap of brandy and rum. Since punches started appearing onmenus in the speakeasy and pre-prohibition-themed barsnow springing up across the country, tea has beenbeckoning other bartenders as well.Hot tea spiked with a little whiskey is as old as, well,whiskey, but until recently, hot-tea cocktails wereovershadowed by winter drink menus favoring fancy,dessert-like coffee and cocoa mixers. At 508 Restaurant &Bar in Manhattan, however, Bar Manager Nick Freemanlast winter offered such tea drinks as Blueberry Fields, withblack tea, amaretto and Grand Marnier.The Norwegian Wood combines orange pekoe, darkrum and vanilla vodka, and Freeman’s Jalice features chai,bourbon and lemon juice. With 508 located on the windyHudson River side of Manhattan, chilly guests welcomethe handcrafted hot drinks.“I enjoy the idea of working with natural flavors,” saysFreeman. “I also enjoy the time spent on a drink’sconstruction; there’s a distinct pleasure in the steepingprocess and in making a proper cocktail. The enjoymentof working in a restaurant setting is [that you have] agenerally more captive and appreciative audience.Experimentation with anything, including recipes,requires one to play with proportion and order.”
TEA TIMECocktails
Black, green, herbal and otherwise, tea makes a return engagementin both hot and cold bar drinks
Winter 2010
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 Bars 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 cuisinedishes, 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.

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