As I poured a generous splash of Arizona Green Tea into the skillet to deglaze it from the sauteed chicken and shallots I'd just removed, it occurred to me how underutilized tea is in much of our cuisine.
The ancient plant has seen a tremendous boom in popularity — green tea, white tea, red tea — in recent years, but primarily as a stand-alone drink. Too little use is made of it as a deglazing agent, a marinade base, or even as a component in cocktails.
So, in honor of the traditions of both tea and the upcoming holiday season, here are three drinks that utilize tea as a major component.
Esmerelda's Spiced Tea
This cold-weather cocktail comes from the folks at Absolut vodka but, of course, any basic vodka can be used. As for the Fee Brothers syrup mentioned in the recipe, it is made in Rochester, N.Y., and can be ordered online (www.feebrothers.com).
1 part vodka
3 parts fresh cinnamon spiced tea
Sweeten to taste with Fee Brothers spiced cordial syrup
Combine, shake lightly without ice, garnish with a cinnamon stick and service in a cocktail tumbler.
I created this cocktail two years ago to celebrate the emerging popularity of both vodka and tea.
3 parts Arizona Green Tea with Honey and Ginseng
3 parts all-grain vodka
6 drops Angostura Bitters
1 teaspoon Galliano liqueur
1 mint leaf
2 orange slices
Put all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with fresh ice (you can substitute Strega for the Galliano if you like a drier drink), stir briskly with a cocktail spoon, then strain quickly into a frosted martini glass before the ice melts. Twist the juice from an orange slice into the drink and let it meander through the solution on its own. Garnish with an orange slice and a mint leaf for color.
Old Colonial Hot Tea Punch
The online site That's the Spirit (www.thatsthespirit.com) has a large archive of reader-contributed drink recipes. This recipe for a large bowl of punch with a definite punch is great for a party and honors the colonial-era penchant for hot drinks as opposed to our modern insistence on chilled ones.
6 cups hot tea
3 ounces Curacao
16 ounces brandy
1/2 cup honey, orgeat syrup, or sugar syrup to taste
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced
1 liter dark rum
1 pint lemon juice
Mix rum, brandy, hot tea, lemon juice, honey or syrup, and curacao in a saucepan and stir until honey or syrup is completely dissolved. Check for sweetness, and when cool, pour into a chilled punch bowl with a large cake of ice. Garnish with lemon slices. Makes about 30 servings.
(William M. Dowd covers the beverage world at billdowd.com.)
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