Tea Cocktails, Part 4: Paired with Food

So finally I’m getting to the good stuff, the actual tea cocktails!

Phil of Mammoth Distilling and Lisa of TeaHaus concocted five fantastic cocktails, all including tea. These drinks were first introduced at Mammoth’s Traverse City location, at a TeaHaus Takeover event.


A tasting at TeaHaus followed, with light food paired to each cocktail—and tea was on the menu for every course!

Tea can be added to food and beverages in different ways. In fact, you can pretty much consider tea a versatile herb or spice. Some examples:

  • Add the loose tea directly to one of the recipe’s liquid ingredients (such as cream) and let infuse for 4 hours to a day or two; strain.
  • Make a tea-infused simple syrup. Add loose tea to water heated to the appropriate temperature for that tea and allow to brew for 10 minutes (or, do a 4-hour cold infusion). Strain the tea and add sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring, and then, at low heat, reduce syrup for approximately 20 minutes. Cool completely.
  • If using a fruit tea that is already sweet, make a concentrate by adding the loose tea to boiling water, infuse for 15 minutes to overnight, and then strain.
  • Use the actual tea leaves, crushed, as a dry rub.

Lisa uses tea in pretty much everything she cooks or bakes, and has made some of her favorite combinations available for purchase. You can get a sense of the possibilities in this TeaHaus–Mammoth tasting!

1st montage_smCourse 1

Lisa used her sencha-based spice blend to make fish tacos, topped with a slaw incorporating pineapple mango black tea. Vegetal sencha green tea is a natural with fish, while the sweet, fruity black tea provides a wonderful note to the slaw.

The tacos went perfectly with Phil’s Macho Coco, a smooth, fruity cocktail composed of Mammoth rum, matcha coconut syrup, pineapple juice, and orange juice, topped with nutmeg. The matcha gives this cocktail its lovely green color!

Course 2

Charcuterie is never amiss, especially when the bread is accompanied with freshly made butter infused with orange blossom oolong tea!

And wow, the Smokey & the Bandit! Topped with Lisa’s goat cheese marshmallows ideal for dipping, this whiskey cocktail uses two teas: spiced rooibos tea syrup and lapsang amaro. The creamy rooibos and smoky lapsang souchong tea combine smoothly with the stellar whiskey.

2nd montage

montage_smCourse 3

Moving back into the sweet realm, Phil’s Lavender Lemon Tea is a luscious summery blend of gin, strawberries, mint lavender tea, and lemonade, which went beautifully with fresh fruit and a dollop of cream that had been infused with raspberry rhubarb green tea. Everyone at my table remarked on how perfect this would be on a summer’s night!

4th montage_smCourse 4

Next up was the most potent cocktail of the evening, a sophisticated Manhattan in Springtime, which Lisa wisely combined with a warm, filling, focaccia topped with onions that had been caramelized in lapsang souchong tea for a slightly smoky flavor.

The Manhattan’s whiskey,  infused with almond hibiscus tea, was rounded out with cherry bounce, sweet vermouth, and bitters.

And that cherry bounce? Mammoth macerates crushed, tart Montmorency cherries (from Shooks Family Farm in Torch Lake, MI) in high-proof whiskey, ages it in bourbon barrels, and then blends in spices and sugar.

Course 5

A Dirty Chai Float (shown below) completed the pairing, with Lisa’s chai gelato—pleasantly spicy and incredibly creamy—melting into the warm vodka and coffee liqueur.

To make the gelato, Lisa uses loose leaf chai, a blend of tea leaves and spices (not a “chai” mix), for flavoring and then adds as little sugar as she can get by with. Chai blends run the gamut from light to heavily spicy, allowing you to control the flavor and heat.

chaiAn evening spent with friends, enjoying outstanding food and incredible cocktails, while experiencing first-hand the versatility of tea, . . .  well, that’s pretty much perfect.

And have Lisa and Phil inspired anyone else to be bold and to start experimenting?

Expand your spice cabinet by including your teas and see what all you can do!

Previous posts in this series:
Tea Cocktails, Part 1 (blending)
Tea Cocktails, Part 2 (producing and distilling alcohol)
Tea Cocktails, Part 3 (aging and maturation)

5 thoughts on “Tea Cocktails, Part 4: Paired with Food

  1. Talk about a tea party! You’ve given it a whole new meaning. I’ve recently found out about Yabao tea. Its made from branch buds rather than leaf buds and would work really well in cocktails. I’ll be reviewing a yabao tea next month, but am posting an Iced Tea Recipe featuring it tomorrow. If your looking for something unusual check it out. Lots of juniper and pine notes.


    1. It’s the same as any tea bud except that yabao, a white tea, is picked earlier in the season, from more mature plants/trees, so the buds are still very tight. I’ve never had it and am wondering how it compares to white teas, which generally don’t have a robust enough flavor for my personal preference. How do you think yabao compares to something like silver needle? I’m looking forward to your review!


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