Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Green Tea Cocktails

The inspiration for this post came about after a bit of chatter on twitter (try saying that after a few cocktails) with my friend, style blogger, Grey Fox. I was bemoaning the fact that after a week of abstinence, I was feeling quite ill and he suggested I drink more green tea. Well, I decided to take his advice on board as I am rather partial to a drop of green tea and I must say that after I had sampled this lot, I felt much better....

Green tea is much lauded for it's health benefits and there is some scientific evidence to back up many of these claims. As a result, its uses are myriad and diverse; from its inclusion in dietary products, to face creams, exponents believe its anti-oxidative and metabolic boosting properties are the secret to a youthful glow and a healthy heart. This is in part, due to its high levels of flavonoids, which can be found in greater quantities in green tea, than in many fruits and vegetables. Flavonoids are thought to help protect against heart disease and some cancers, so it certainly can't do any harm to include a cup or two of green tea in your diet, although levels of these health boosting phytochemicals do vary significantly depending on which teas you drink.

The origins of green tea are to be found China, where it has been enjoyed for over 4000 years and has been the subject of Chinese literature and medicine from as far back as 600 AD. It is the product of Camellia Sinensis, the tea plant, which, in it's various forms, produces all types of tea depending on the amount of oxidisation they have undergone. Black tea, which is the type we most commonly drink in the West, has undergone a much greater amount of oxidisation, whereas green tea is picked early, thus retaining more of the health benefits. This also means it is higher in tannins and must be brewed carefully to avoid it tasting overly bitter and woody. Boiling water, poured straight on to the leaves, can 'burn' them, causing the tannins to be excessively released. Therefore, it is advisable to allow the water to cool or catch it before the boiling point, to keep the tea a little sweeter. Most green tea leaves will also benefit from another brewing, becoming sweeter with consecutive infusions. So there you have it - healthy and economical. What's not to love...

Which brings me to the subject of Green Tea Cocktails (I get there eventually). No doubt the alcohol will mitigate all of the health benefits, but that aside, you can create some really delicious and interesting flavours by infusing spirits with tea or by using cold tea as a mixer. Indeed, this is a well worn path for me as I have created and sampled numerous Tea Cocktails in the past;

The delicate rose tea infused Hendricks gin in the Secret Tea Society Cocktail
The earl grey infused gin in the Earl Grey Martini
The summer punch tea infused Pinkster Gin in the Pinkster Summer Punch Mar(tea)ni
The addition of chamomile tea to Bloom Gin in the Chamomile Lawn

I highly recommend you try them all at some point. Just click on the titles to visit the post that features the recipe.

It won't have escaped your notice, I'm sure, that all of these cocktails are gin based. There are two reasons for this: one - I just like gin, a lot, and two - the fragrant nature of gin generally combines well with tea and often, if you look at the botanicals that are used in a particular brand, you will be able to make a pretty failsafe combination with a tea that has a similar flavour palate.

But enough revelling in cocktail victories past, and on to our latest crop of tea-based delights....

To begin, and just to prove that I can see past gin on occasion, I've created a cocktail that uses green tea infused vodka. To make this yourself, use a fairly decent vodka to keep the flavour smooth, but there's no need to invest in anything too flashy. For each cocktail you will need 2oz of vodka and 1 tsp of green tea. Flavour will vary according to which tea you use, but that's part of the fun. I used Chun Mee green tea, which amusingly, translates as 'precious eyebrows' (unless Wikipedia is just having a laugh at my expense). Add 1 tsp of green tea leaves to the 2oz vodka and leave to infuse for no more than 1 hour or the flavour will become woody, due to those pesky tannins. Strain the infusion and discard the leaves. Now you are ready to begin.

Rosemary Green

2oz green tea infused vodka
1oz Chase Elderflower Liqueur
3/4oz fresh lime juice
fresh rosemary(about 12 needles)
dash of sparkling water
sprig of rosemary to garnish

Add the vodka and rosemary to the bottom of a shaker and gently muddle (squish) to release the oils from the herb.
Add the lime and elderflower liqueur with a handful of ice and shake until the outside of the shaker has frosted.
Strain the contents into a tall glass filled with ice and add a dash of sparkling water to top up.
Stir with a swizzle to mix the drink and garnish with a sprig of rosemary.

Tip - to enhance the scent of the rosemary garnish, slap it gently between your palms beforehand

 Next up is yet another variation on a classic Mojito, but in place of the sparkling water, I'm using green tea. If you are a fan of the Mojito, I expect you will like this drink, but it's different enough from the original to not seem like a pointless substitution. The addition of green tea gives it a little more bite and a little less sugar, keeps it suitably grown up.

Green Tea Mojito

2oz Clements Martinique Rhum Agricole
3/4oz fresh lime juice
8-12 mint leaves
1/2oz simple syrup
2oz chilled green tea
sprig of mint to garnish

Muddle (squish) the mint with the lime juice, in the bottom of your shaker, but don't press too hard or you'll bruise the leaves and end up with the taste of leaf rather than mint.
Add the rum and simple syrup with a handful of ice and shake it all for about 20 secs.
Strain the cocktail into a chilled, ice filled tumbler and top up with the green tea.
Give a stir with a swizzle stick and garnish with a sprig of fresh mint, slapping it gently in your palms to release the minty aroma.

This next cocktail is served in the martini style, shaken over ice. The combination of jasmine and elderflower really is quite beautiful and the little kick of green tea keeps it from being too floral. As before, you need to infuse 2oz of spirits with 1 tsp of tea for no more than hour. Jasmine tea can come in many forms, but the one I used combined jasmine flowers with green tea. I would give you the name, but it was all in Chinese as I bought it in an Oriental Minimart. I can however, tell you that the gin was Aldi's own, Oliver Cromwell, London Dry Gin which, for the money is perfectly acceptable, especially for this purpose.

Jasmine Flower

2oz jasmine tea infused gin
3/4oz fresh lemon juice
sprig of mint to garnish

Add the jasmine infused vodka, elderflower and lemon to a shaker with ice and shake hard.
Strain the cocktail into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a sprig of mint.
As before, gently slap the mint to release the aroma, before applying as garnish.

Last but not least, is a cocktail made with Whittards Chai Tea which is actually a black tea, but combined so beautifully with the gin, I couldn't leave it out. As with the other infusions, use 1 tsp of tea leaves to 2oz gin and infuse for an hour at the most, before straining and discarding the leaves. 

Orange Chai(tea)ni

2oz chai tea infused gin
1/2oz triple sec
3/4oz freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2oz fresh lemon juice
strip of orange zest to garnish

Add everything apart from the garnish to a shaker, with ice.
Shake until the outside of the shaker is frosted and strain into a chilled martini glass.
Twist the zest over the cocktail, spraying it with a fine mist of orange oil, and garnish.

Friday, 10 January 2014


The weeks that follow the Festive period are generally fraught with guilt and wavering resolution after a month long bacchanalian booze fest. Buttons don't seem to fasten properly, elastic seems to cut into body parts, turning limbs into link sausages and the last time you awoke feeling vaguely human is a dim distant memory. So it's no surprise then, that for most of us, January has become a month of avoidance, restraint and low level misery. Whilst there is a definite need to let the body recover, there will come a time when you want to start to drink again without entirely undoing all that good work you've put in. So, as you sip on your hot water with a side order of self-sacrifice, why not undo a button or two of your hair shirt and start planning your 'retox' diet....

Cocktails can of course be very fattening; often they are laden with sugar to make them taste like pop which in turn makes them easy to quaff at an alarming rate. However, if you make them yourself, you can control exactly what goes in the glass. Many recipes will call for an ounce of sugar syrup which can equate to over 150 calories before you've even added the alcohol. All of these recipes use only a teaspoon or two of syrup, but will still taste great and you'll be less inclined to chug them down like a  Sunny D crazed teenager. Each cocktail contains around 180 calories which is less than a large (250 ml) glass of wine.

First up is a far less sugary version of the Mojito; a cocktail of rum, mint and lime whose origins are Cuban, but whose popularity has spread worldwide. This version uses a little runny honey to sweeten the taste, but far less than the equivalent sugar in a traditional Mojito. As a result, the other flavours really come to the fore, so be sure to use a good quality white rum and the freshest of ingredients.

Mojito Flaco

2 oz white rum
3/4 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
6-8 mint leaves
2 tsp runny honey
sparkling water to top up
sprig of mint to garnish

Add the mint leaves, honey and lime to the bottom of a shaker and muddle (squish). Don't overdo the muddling as the mint will end up tasting vegetal rather than deliciously minty if the leaves become too bruised.
Pour in the rum,  a handful of ice and give it a good shake (with the lid on of course).
Put plenty of ice into a chilled glass and strain the cocktail into it - be sure to check the strainer isn't clogged with mint or you won't be able to get all the cocktail out.
Top up with a little sparkling water and give it a little stir to mix.
Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.
(Tip - if you gently slap the mint between your palms, it will release a fabulously minty aroma that will enhance the drinking experience)

This next drink uses Berkley Square Gin which is distilled in the traditional, London style and then infused with a bouquet garni of botanicals, including lavender, sage kaffir lime and basil. The Lavender Martini Spritz uses a little lavender syrup and fresh lime juice to enhance those wonderful flavours and just a little dash of sparkling water to diffuse the intensity.

Lavender Martini Spritz

2 oz Berkley Square Gin
2 tsp lavender syrup (click here for recipe)
1/2 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
dash of sparking water
lime wheel to garnish

Add the gin, syrup and lime juice to shake with ice and shake hard until the outside frosts over.
Open the shaker and add a dash of sparkling water.
Strain the cocktail into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a wheel of lime.

Finally, to celebrate the end of detox and the start of retox, a champagne cocktail that is fresh, light and fabulous. Of course, in the spirit of restraint, you can use a brut cava instead of champagne...

Apple Mint

1 oz vodka
2 oz apple juice
4 mint leaves
1 tsp sugar
champagne or cava to top up
sprig of mint to garnish

Add the sugar to the apple juice in the bottom of a shaker and stir until dissolved.
Add the vodka, mint leaves and muddle gently before popping in a handful of ice and giving it a shake.
Double strain the cocktail to remove the bits of mint and pour into a chilled champagne flute. Carefully top up with fizz and add a sprig of mint to garnish.

(Tip - fruit juice and fizz can react quite vigorously so add the champagne or cava incrementally, waiting for the bubbles to subside before adding more.)