Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Mixology Monday, August 2013: FIRE! part 2

'Cause it wouldn't be a MxMo if I weren't up late finishing a recipe..

Our announcement post with our theme: FIRE! Our round-up post, once live.

Lesson re-learned on this cocktail: if you can't taste all the flavors, it's probably too sweet.

So I learned the hard way that ouzo is best regarded as a liqueur instead of a liquor, despite its proof. Still, while not a pure split-(down-the-middle)-spirit cocktail as originally intended, the final result was quite a happy one. I ended up borrowing the structure from The PDT Cocktail Book's Pearl Button, a dry-edged revelation whose overall tone I felt would be right for the impression I wanted to create.

Now why would that be, when the Pearl Button doesn't utilize anything fire-related? Well, this is something I've been noodling for awhile, it just needed the right opportunity to avail itself. Which is to say, I'm starting my Ti(n)sanity series, my exploration of all the different applications of tea in cocktails, back up after a long summer hiatus. Class is back in session with more advanced topics developing as schedules permit. Good old Professor MacGuffin, Celestial Seasoning's Tension Tamer tea, is back at the head of the class.

But how does this relate to fire?


We're smoking the tea tisane.

Wind Whisperer
2 oz Bombay Sapphire gin
3/4 oz Metaxa ouzo
1/2 oz lime juice
1/4 oz hazelnut orgeat
1 dash Teapot bitters
1 1/2 oz seltzer

1 Tension Tamer tea bag for smoking

Step 1: The Smoke

Start by smoking your serving glass, preferably a rocks/double old-fashioned for its wide mouth which will encourage the aromatics. One thing I found out quickly was that lighting a tea bag on fire won't actually set the herbs alight (for long enough to create vapors anyway) -- and for what vapors you got, they were masked by a burnt smell (*weak shrug* such is the delicacy of this tisane). Instead, you want to employ an indirect method of heating the tisane to create the right kind of vapors: those consisting primarily of essential oils and distinctly lacking char. You can probably use this for any kind of tea or dried herb of which you wish to get a clean expression, though it should be noted that char does emerge the more heat you apply and the longer it's applied.

I came across this method while researching how to burn frankincense for a recipe down the line. A specialty briquette would be nice to use, but a method a little closer to home worked in a pinch for me: I grabbed an aluminum take-out container (a tin pie plate would also work well) and went to work on the stove. Be careful with this, though: the aluminum conducts heat in a near-literal flash. With the tin on the burner (could be a hot plate also), rip open your tea bag and pour it slightly thick into the center of the tin and set the burner to the lowest temperature possible. Since you want to rest your serving glass over the tea bag contents being smoked, you should use some kind of non-conductive rests between the aluminum and the glass to protect from heat damage: in this case, a broken in half wooden chopstick.

Even on the lowest heat setting, you should soon notice light vapors filling the glass and delighting your nose as they slip out from underneath the sides. Let it go gently for a couple of minutes to make sure the scent sticks: you should be getting roughly the same scent as a fresh-brewed cup of tea, but obviously drier and denser. (and don't forget to turn off the burner when you're done!)

Step 2: Make the cocktail

In the meantime, shake all your ingredients (except seltzer) on ice. When your serving glass is ready, add large ice and your shaken drink, double-strained. Add the seltzer and gently stir to incorporate.

No garnish. Any kind of garnish would only detract from the other aromatics going on.

The tisane smoke greets you on the nose, with its base of lemon cake and vanilla-emergent herbals, undergirded by Bombay Sapphire's floral aromatics, a hint of anise, and...is that hazelnut? is that rose? The palate does what I had hoped it would do, by being evanescent. Sure, there's a bit of tongue-pucker from the lime and a touch of anise emerging on the finish and lips...but oft-abrasive juniper here glides across the tongue and the experience is nose-focused.

On the ingredients:
  • Bombay Sapphire has tended to be my gin-nemesis. I prefer a straight, classy, no-nonsense gin like Tanqueray, but here the floral curves and restraints meshed perfectly with the spirit of the cocktail.
  • After starting with lemon, I switched to lime because I realized I had already done a lemon juice Sour in Hit the Road to Dreamland, so a lime Sour would add some variety to this series. The lime also adds a delicate green tint, reminiscent of spring (and frankly, the lemon juice-color looked like it was trying too hard).
  • What can I say? I do love what a delicate anise can do. But the sneaky thing in the Metaxa ouzo isn't its most prominent aromatic: it's the hazelnut. Connected to and brought out by the orgeat and the Teapot bitters, it's a thread that invisibly ties the cocktail together.

Deep and many thanks to Fred Yarm for cat-herding and Paul Clarke for founding. It's been a blast and I'll see you all at the round-up post!

Previous Ti(n)sanity recipes:

Eire Light (irish whiskey)
Hit the Road to Dreamland (rum)
Lullaby Sangaree (madeira) and Insufferable Creole Minx (bourbon, gin, madeira)
T. T. Punch (rhum agricole)
Me-tea-orite (single malt scotch)
Introduction and eThéreal Toddy (grappa)

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.