Monday, March 11, 2013

Ti(n)sanity!: T. T. Punch

Disclaimer: this is a non-sponsored post. Also, I'm not looking to do sponsored posts. I just really like this tea, is all, and have a policy of happily and independently buying all my ingredients.

To coin a phrase: ACK! Funny how life, a fridge in terrible need of total defrostment, and the need for a crash course in punch can get in the way of cocktailing. My intent was to get this punch recipe out at the end February (ideally while still in the month of Aquarius, the libation-bearer). But, we are still in the watery Neptune-ruled month of Pisces and that has to count for something.

Anywho, welcome back to Ti(n)sanity!, a series exploring all the unique potential applications for herbal tea (that is to say, tisanes), with our friendly Maguffin common denominator, Celestial Seasonings Tension Tamer tea. This is the third post, of at least ten, and the first post for our mad month of March!

Now, I say "mad" because, aside from the basketball and the airhorns I hear outside from Villanova students, for this next week we're going to go a little more crazy than usual by exploring four different though related applications, leading up to a special do-it-yourself homemade liqueur for St. Patty's Day that only takes a day or two to put together. After all that, we're going to reduce the Ti(n)sanity scheduling to about once a month for slightly more complex applications.

As with our previous two entries, today's recipe works with strong-brewed tisane -- all the better to mix and permit the flavor to come through. This time, instead of boiling hot tisane for a Toddy or tisane ice for an Old Fashioned, we have room temperature or chilled tisane for use in that classic mixed drink form known as Punch.

Put simply, the essence of punch is strong and weak, sharp (sour) and sweet, and of course: spice. Tea will often feature as a combination weak/spice ingredient in punch, though it tends to be black or green tea: something astringent, unctuous and flavorful to be used in place of plain water (and potentially something that can hold its own against hogo-filled rum).

So, to start for this punch, I was somewhat limited in my choices for a base spirit. One of my aims for the entire series is to not reuse ingredients wherever possible, to avoid redundancy and boredom on your part and to showcase the range the herbal tea can have. Given my plans for other recipes, I was angling for either cachaça or new-to-me rhum agricole. The cachaças in my cabinet weren't throwing off vibes for this one recipe, so I soon found myself with a new bottle of Neisson Rhum Agricole Blanc: light, delicate, astringent with soft savory funk. Everything I could have hoped for this recipe and beyond.

As to mixing? Sometimes the simplest concoctions are best. Here, I took rhum agricole's signature cocktail, Ti' Punch --which techinically isn't a punch-punch: wrong ratios, no weak, no spice-- and turned it into one.

T. T. Punch
1/2 oz lime juice
3/4 oz sweet lime syrup
1 1/2 oz rhum agricole blanc
2 oz Tension Tamer tea, brewed and cooled
fresh grated cinnamon

Give the four liquid ingredients a quick shake without ice to blend, then strain into your serving cup over a large cube or sphere of ice. Garnish with fresh grated cinnamon and a lemongrass straw.

If making a full-sized punch, multiply your ingredients as needed and serve in a punch bowl with an ice ring or block possibly filled with mint and slices of sweet lime, with lemon grass curls strewn and cinnamon grated over the whole punch.

If your taste runs drier than average, try reducing the syrup to 1/2 oz.

The Tension Tamer isn't as perceptible here as one might want, but when you consider how the punch would taste with water instead of tea, the herbal undercurrent it provides becomes that much more noticeable. In all, though, all the flavors harmonize especially well, making a light, sweet-ish, gently funky punch. It's not the perfection as is this Donn's Gin Punch I discovered while researching punch, but it's more than serviceable.**

The story on the sweet limes? (which are different from regular limes) I never had them before this recipe, but they seemed like a good flavor match for Tension Tamer. As it turns out, there's a lot of sweet and very little acidity to them, so their juice would function as a sweet and not a sour ingredient. However, their zest's scent was incredible and too good to pass up making oleo saccharum (a process where citrus zest oils are extracted by being immersed in sugar, the oily sugar then used to sweeten and flavor the punch).

On the cinnamon and lemongrass, nutmeg tends to be the most common spice grated over punch, but in this case I opted to play up ingredients in the Tension Tamer. You may find this tactic cropping up again and again the further we get into Ti(n)sanity!

Sweet Lime Syrup
2 sweet limes - pithless zests only
1/4 cup demerara sugar
1/4 cup white sugar

Combine zests with the sugars in a sealed plastic bag (as much air squeezed out as possible). Let it oleo saccharuminate anywhere from an hour on the counter to overnight for a day or two in the fridge (probably not good to let it go beyond two days, tops). Once you're satisfied with the amount of oil extracted from the zests, pour 1/2 cup warm water into the bag, seal up, and agitate until all the sugar is dissolved. Strain off the zests and store in a sealed container in the fridge until ready to use. Makes about 3/4 cup.

Given sweet limes tend to be pretty difficult to find, especially as we're moving out of citrus season, feel free to just do a simple syrup using the above-listed sugars and the 1/2 cup of water. Regular lime zest is too bitter to substitute here.

**On the MxMo with which Donn's Gin Punch is associated: you might notice that Hobson's Choice, the host blog, is viewable by invite-only. If interested in exploring punch further, though, here's a list of all the entries to MxMo XLVII that I was able to google up, from the finest cocktail blogging minds out there, natch: Spirited Remix, Fogged in Lounge, Wordsmithing Pantagruel, Cocktail Chronicles, A Mountain of Crushed Ice, Inspired Libations, Science of Drink, Cocktail Virgin Slut, Rum Dood, and Drink of the Week.

Previous Ti(n)sanity recipes:

Me-tea-orite (single malt scotch)
Introduction and eThéreal Toddy (grappa)