Tea Time

April 2016
By: Alia Akkam, FSR Magazine

Drinking tea is steeped—pardon the pun—in ritual. Whether it’s a late-afternoon pot of loose-leaf Ceylon and a tiered platter of ginger-studded scones served in an ornate hotel lobby, or a simple sachet of rooibos offering postprandial herbal relief from a multi-course dinner, there is something decidedly ceremonial about savoring a cup. For many bartenders the comforting, kettle-spawned beverage is just another compelling way to amplify cocktails.

Consider the ascent of the Owl’s Brew, a line of fresh-brewed and bottled tea blends designed to meld with cocktails. Along with creations like the English Breakfast-meets-lime Classic, there is the Famous Mint Tea, a lemon-tinged peppermint intended to pair specifically with the Famous Grouse Scotch. At Eat Street Social in Minneapolis, for instance, Marco Zappia makes the Northern Star, uniting the whisky and tea with ginger syrup, fresh lemon juice, and Bittercube Jamaican #1 Bitters.

When sultrier weather arrives, guests at Willa Jean in New Orleans can quench their thirst with the Dirty Water, a cooling mélange of spicy Bulleit bourbon countered with mint, lemon, and green tea. Bulleit is also the bourbon of choice for the Mag Mile at Bar Toma in Chicago, a large-format cocktail with peach liqueur, iced tea, and lemon, served in a punch bowl. “While we think sipping on the Mag Mile during patio season in Chicago is the best time to enjoy it, tea is a great beverage year-round: refreshing in the summer and soothing in the winter,” says Giuseppe Incandela, Bar Toma’s general manager.