You Deserve a Smoked Tea Old Fashioned

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Illustration for article titled You Deserve a Smoked Tea Old Fashioned

Photo: Claire Lower

3-Ingredient Happy Hour3-Ingredient Happy HourThe weekly drink column featuring super simple yet delicious libations.

Fall is an aggressively themed season. Sure, there are holidays that get an equal amount of theming, but the autumnification of food and beverages lasts for months, and fall-themed flavors tend to be quite sweet.

I’m not one to rail against pumpkin spice coffee drinks on Twitter (because I don’t want people to think I’m old), but a pumpkin cocktail is a little much for me. I can get into apple, and cinnamon isn’t unwelcome, but they all get leaned on a bit too heavily. But smoke? That’s a flavor that merely hints at the season.

Talking about smoke as a good thing feels slightly gauche, but until recently, I really enjoyed “smokey” as a fall flavor. It reminds me of (controlled, safe) fires, fallen leaves, and cozy sweaters. It’s nice! If, like me, you are still a little skittish around flames, you can give your cocktail a nice smoked character without any fire at all—you just need some smoked tea syrup.

The syrup is made with lapsang souchong—“smoked tea”—a black, Chinese tea traditionally smoke-dried over pinewood. The smoke really comes through and, when combined with lots of sugar, you get a wonderful, smoldering cocktail syrup.

You can add the syrup to a wide variety of cocktails, but I really, really like it in an old fashioned. You don’t need a lot—just a teaspoon. It gives the drink just the right amount of burnt sweetness, without detracting from whatever bourbon you happen to be enjoying. To make a smoked tea old fashioned, you will need:

  • 1 1/5 ounces bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon smoked tea syrup (recipe here)
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine all three ingredients in a low ball and stir. Add a large ice cube, stir a few more times, and garnish with a strip of lemon zest if you feel like it, making sure you express the oils from the zest before plunking it in the glass.


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