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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
An 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!