When it’s frigid outside, nothing is more soothing than wrapping your hands around a steaming mug of something warm. While marshmallow-topped cocoa may be fine for the sledding set, these chilly and uncertain times require a tipple that’s a bit more…fortified. Thankfully, skillful mixologists—who possess that rare gift of anticipating exactly what we need as we grab a stool—are adding tea to their bar repertoire, creating appropriately comforting drinks to render us warmer, clearer and calmer.
Mixologist Chantal Tseng of Washington, DC’s historic Tabard Inn views tea as soothing and aromatic, especially now—when colds and flu are rampant, and everyone’s mind is on the current economic woes. She recalls the time she came down with a cold when studying abroad in Paris, and her host mother made her a hot toddy with tea, honey lemon and brandy. “Tea carries with it the nostalgia of being taken care of when you’re sick,” she explains.
Tseng favors therapeutic Chamomile, whose included herbs serve as a relaxant, aid in digestion, and help relieve insomnia and anxiety. Her Chamomile Toddy has been extremely popular both with hotel guests who find themselves under the weather away from home, as well as bar patrons who seek something hot and boozy to enjoy in front of the lounge’s fireplace. And since Chamomile is produced from herbs, not tea leaves, it can’t be oversteeped so it never becomes overly tannic. Next up for the tea-loving Tseng? She is infusing Aquavit with Chamomile, lemongrass, ginger and cardamom for the fittingly named Swedish Phlegm Cutter cocktail.
If you prefer to think—and drink—green, ZEN Green Tea Liqueur offers tranquility sans the teapot. Made with whole tea leaves and ground Matcha powder, lemongrass, herbs and natural flavors, Zen’s subtly sweet flavor is reminiscent of the distinctly flavored green-tinged ice cream you may order at your favorite sushi bar.
Tea Sommelier James Labe has created a series of both cold and warm tea-infused cocktails featuring ZEN. Fans of fragrant Chai tea will especially gravitate towards the aromatic ZEN Chai Toddy, made with Indian Gold-Tipped Assam tea, cardamom and other spices. An exhilarating hour plunging down the slopes (or that sledding hill), topped off by this heady beverage, may just make you forget about that plunging 401K.
Courtesy of Chantal Tseng, Tabard Inn, Washington, DC
1.5 oz. Brandy
Â½ oz. honey syrup (equal parts honey & warm water, stirred to combine)
4 oz. hot brewed Chamomile tea
Grated nutmeg (optional)
Add first five ingredients to mug. Top with hot brewed Chamomile tea, and garnish with grated nutmeg (if desired).
ZEN Chai Toddy
Courtesy of Tea Sommelier James Labe
3 parts ZEN Green Tea Liqueur (check www.zenliqueur.com for purchasing info)
4 parts steeped Gold-Tipped Assam Black Tea (check www.teavana.com or www.myteas.com for purchasing info)
1 part heavy cream
Chai Spices (per serving, 3 crushed Cardamom Pods or Â¼ tsp Cardamom Powder, 1 slice Fresh Ginger, 1 Cinnamon Stick, 2 Cloves)
Combine steeped tea with Chai spices. Steep 2 minutes. Strain, reserving cinnamon stick. Add heavy cream and serve.
Kelly Magyarics is a wine and spirits writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, DC area. She can be reached through her website, www.trywine.net.