When thinking the challenge through, it seemed like we had three basic options: add brewed tea to the cocktail, infuse spirits with tea, or make a tea-flavored sugar syrup. We actually had rather good results mixing brewed oolong tea with aperol and lemon juice, but the drink we became fondest of used the sugar syrup.
The really tough decision was which tea to use. We thought of Lapsang first, with its deep smokiness, but thought that might be too strong. We have some madrona bark tea from Shaw Island which we haven’t yet tasted, but it brews for a long time and we kept forgetting to get it started. One of my very favorite teas, though, is Golden Yunnan, and it seemed like a perfect candidate. Rich and malty in flavor, it seemed like it would go great with booze.
Having decided on a tea, making the syrup was a snap. Combine equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan and heat until the sugar dissolves, then add 1 tsp of loose tea (this was for a small amount of syrup – just about 1/2 cup total) and steep for 5 minutes or so. Strain into a clean jar and refrigerate.
With the syrup made (and really tasty on its own) we experimented with a few different combinations. We’ve recently become fond of Crown Royal, with its smooth sweetness, and thought it might work well with the Yunnan. We tried using it to make a Whiskey Sour with the tea syrup in place of the usual sugar. This was very tasty, but the lemon juice overwhelmed the tea flavor – not bad, but not enough tea. For our next try we used Aperol instead of the lemon, both to provide a citrus element and a bitter edge to offset the sweetness. This worked really well, and was gorgeous besides. We call it the Royal Yunnan.
- 1 ½ oz Crown Royal
- ¾ oz Golden Yunnan syrup
- ¾ oz Aperol
Stir all the ingredients together with ice, then strain into a rocks glass. Serve on ice with a strip of orange zest and a piece of fresh ginger.
Ed. 1/27/10: The roundup of everyone’s tea cocktails is up! Check it out at Cocktail Virgin Slut.