What goes round comes round and sure enough our grand-parents’ tea drinking habits have come back to haunt us. Although this time with much more than a little twist of lemon and certainly worthy of Mr Dodgson’s allegedly less than pure thoughts about Alice !
By Ashleigh VanHouten
Picture the quintessential tea-drinker. Maybe you’re seeing a woman, in her thirties. She’s sitting in a comfy chair, wrapped in a cashmere throw at her reading nook, holding a saucer daintily with one hand and her delicate, steaming teacup in the other. People tend to divide themselves between tea and coffee drinkers, with the former being the decidedly lighter, calmer, perhaps more health-conscious imbiber. But even the stereotypical tea drinker has to tie one on every now and then—so you might as well mix your daily tea with your favorite spirit for a cocktail that’s subtle, complex, layered, and yeah—will get you lit. We know that’s what you’re here for. While tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world after water, I can’t help but think that bourbon is, or should be, a close third (based solely on my own personal experience).
Millennials are some of the biggest consumers of fancy/trendy teas these days, and they’re also the ones doing a lot of the boozing, so it makes sense that tea cocktails are kind of a big deal these days. You’ve probably heard of the hot toddy, a mix of whiskey, lemon juice, honey and black tea, and it’s a classic for a reason, but there’s so much more out there for tea lovers. And in New York (where else), you can find a tea cocktail to suit any taste or mood.
Tea-drinking lushes, take note: At Anfora (anforanyc.com) in the West Village, the Blue Angel combines rum, blueberry-lemongrass kombucha, lime, and bitters. The famous Parm (parmnyc.com) restaurant on Mulberry Street nods to nearby Chinatown with the Chinatown Sling, a tea-infused gin, cherry and aperol concoction. Mihoko’s 21 Grams (mihokos21grams.com), a modern Japanese spot, has a truly unique cocktail in the Pluie Vert: rye whiskey, matcha, mint and lemon (and if you aren’t already on top of the matcha craze, I just feel bad for you). The Booty Collins at the Tippler (thetippler.com), a charming bar beneath the Chelsea Market, adds green tea to vodka, passion fruit, lemon and cayenne for a tart, effervescent—well, tipple. It’s worth a trip to the west side.
The always interesting Apotheke (apothekenyc.com) in Chinatown, which organizes its menu by the cocktail’s supposed medicinal benefits (like pain killers, stress relievers, and euphoric enhancers), lists the Yippie Ki-Yay under “Stimulants” and offers up Jim Beam rye, apricot mango black tea syrup, lime, agave, and apple bitters. And the bartenders wear lab coats, so it’s basically medicine.
At the Financial District’s Dead Rabbit (deadrabbitnyc.com), known as one of the most legit cocktail bars in the city, if not the country, you can order the bold Jabberwocky, with smoky lapsang tea mixed with rye, cacao, curacao, sweet vermouth, bitters and orange essence.
Of course, if you’d prefer to take your boozy tea in the parlor (that is, at home in your sweatpants, with Netflix on) you can buy some Owl’s Brew, tea-infused cocktail mixes that can be combined with vodka, gin and even beer and are sold widely throughout the U.S. in places like Whole Foods and Williams-Sonoma. The mixes are made with fresh spices, herbs, whole tea leaves and fruit and sweetened with agave, for a relatively healthier and lower-calorie mixed drink. Owl’s Brew comes in four flavors: the classic, with English Breakfast front and center; White Vine, a tart white tea with watermelon and pomegranate; A Mint Tea version, and The Smoky Earl, a “robust lapsang with a touch of sweetness.” Make a cocktail in your favorite mug and you don’t even have to tell anyone.
We New Yorkers are always in a rush: to get to the next meeting, the next gym class, the next party. We like the finer things, and the trendier things: things like high-end tea, classy spirits, and even fad concepts like “relaxing” from time to time. So why not mix them all together with a delicious, calming-yet-sexy tea cocktail? After all, it’s tea-time somewhere.