Tea-based cocktails are the next big thing in mixology, swinging onto the Singaporean scene late last year. We get ready for the weekend by learning a little bit more about their origins and how to drink them.
A Taiwanese invention
Tea has been a feature of cocktails in Asia for about two years now, originating in Taiwan in 2017, where experimental bartender Aki Wang began infusing the spirits he used with tea. Using the myriad types of tea that grow indigenously in Taiwan, Wang created hundreds of flavoured liqueurs with the depth and complexity of flavour that only really comes from tea. Tea as a cocktail ingredient then spread to Japan, and finally, late last year, to Singapore, spearheaded by Dario Knox and Macarena Rotger.
The two main strands of tea-based cocktails
Tea-based cocktails fall into two basic categories: those that are made with brewed tea, and those that are made from liqueur that has been infused with tea leaves. The first set has a more potent tea flavour and tends to be used in long drinks, while tea-infused liqueurs are more subtly flavoured, with a focus more on the tea’s aromatics and how they combine with the flavour of the liqueur itself to create something new. A great example of the first form is the Green Tea & Irish Whiskey Punch. For this, all the classic Irish Whiskey Punch ingredients are used – ginger ale, honey, Jamesons and mint. But they are mixed with a big old bowl of strong green tea to give the punch a light and refreshing taste. The other type of tea-based cocktails – those where the base liqueur is infused with tea – is made through a standard infusing process. A choice of liqueur is made, a choice of tea is made, and the two are mixed together and sealed for several weeks (or longer) until the tea has imparted its flavour.
A boozy afternoon tea
Whereas some cocktails can be too much with food – too sweet or too fruity – tea-based cocktails go well with a meal because of the slight bitterness that the tea adds. Classic cocktail and food combinations, like oysters and martini, or chocolate and mescal, will go equally well, if not better, when the cocktail is made with a tea-based liqueur. Or, if you’re feeling really adventurous, why not mix up your afternoon tea and cake – an earl grey martini and a slice of Victoria sponge is a firm favourite of ours.
A cheeky trick
If you like the idea of it, it’s quite straightforward to make infused liqueur at home, and, a little secret from us – it’s a great way of making the less pricey end of liqueurs a lot nicer. Just grab a bottle of something you like, smell out some flavour combinations with different types of tea, and seal it away until your next dinner party.