Pinkies in the air, lace doilies, and cucumber sandwiches are some of the images that a traditional tea ceremony conjures. But new ones might now come to mind when a restaurant adds vodka or rum to the mix.
Tea saw a 15 percent increase in menu appearances nationwide between 2010 and 2015, according to the Tea Association of the USA Inc. Local bartenders are capitalizing on its recent growth by integrating it into cocktails across town.
The tea-infused possibilities are aplenty. Chai, matcha, black, or herbal tea can be stirred with gin, vodka, bourbon, and other spirits and served in a cocktail glass or, in some cases, a teacup.
While coffee might have once been the preferred caffeinated beverage to mix with alcohol, a la the Irish coffee and White Russian, tea is clearly no longer the redheaded stepchild.
Here’s a rundown of some of the booze-meets-tea options.
While known primarily as a spicy tea laced with cardamom and cloves found at neighborhood Indian restaurants and Starbucks, chai is showing up in cocktails, often in a syrup or infused in popular spirits.
Bidwell’s Chai-Me-Hattan features chai-infused Four Roses bourbon, while Firefly’s spin on an Old Fashioned features chai tea-infused Woodford Reserve. Bourbon in Adams Morgan offers Textbook Luv, with chai-infused vermouth, rye, Cynar, and cherry jam.
The Gibson’s Raab Knows What’s Up features Laphroaig, apple brandy, Italian liqueur, orange juice, and Bombay chai honey syrup.
Meanwhile, Rasika West End uses a spiced masala chai flavored with orange blossom water, vodka and milk, and topped with cardamom powder. Barmini mixes chai with lemon, cognac, and nutmeg.
Mad About Matcha
With promises of delivering antioxidants and speeding up metabolism, matcha green tea has been popping up in smoothies and health food stores. It’s also won over many bartenders looking to balance the booze with a health boost, and many are mixing matcha with citrus flavors.
Dirty Habit’s Matcha Picchu cocktail features matcha, Peruvian pisco, guava juice, velvet falernum, lime, and egg white. Kapnos Kouzina mixes matcha green tea with vodka, vermouth, cinnamon, apple, and lime.
And All Set Restaurant & Bar serves The Green Monster (a nod to Fenway Park) with matcha, lemon, gin, cava, bitters, and lavender syrup.
Warm boozy teas and lattes
Hazel’s Winter Tea Service, launching Dec. 1 on its winter patio, serves its tea with a dose of gin, rum, bourbon, or sherry. Rooibos tea is steeped with gin in the Best of Both Worlds teapot. (It’s one of five boozy teas to be offered.) The spiked tea is then poured into cups containing spiced butter and nutmeg.
The Illogical Holiday features a pot of Mexican chocolate tea, which is poured over eggnog and optional shots of spiced rum.
Folks who like the idea of sipping booze from a teacup can also head to Ping Pong Dim Sum. Served in a glass teapot, The King Hendrick’s combines gin, apple juice, green tea, bamboo bitters, cucumber, and mint.
Another favorite afternoon drink, the tea latte, gets an update at The Fainting Goat. The Potomac Fog combines lavender-infused gin, earl grey tea, honey, and heavy cream.
Classic teas with a twist
Many establishments are relying on Chamomile, Earl Gray, Jasmine and other classic teas to embellish their cocktails.
Many are marrying tea with citrus flavors. The Ritz-Carlton Georgetown’s English Elixir mixes bourbon, maple syrup, Earl Gray, clove, orange, and lemon slices and bitters. Teddy & The Bully Bar serves the Roosevelt Island Punch with pisco, pineapple syrup, Jasmine tea, lime and bitters (serving two to four). City Perch’s Afternoon Delight includes a lemon berry tea with a lemon sour base and vodka.
Bartaco in Reston serves Sanguina, a cocktail that features hibiscus tea-infused tequila with ginger-agave simple syrup, blood orange, and lime juice. Grilled Oyster Company’s Jasmine White is made with Jasmine apple tea, bourbon, ginger simple syrup, and whipped cream infused with orange and Frangelico.
Masseria and McClellan’s Retreat feature tea cocktails with an Italian Twist. Masseria’s drink features chamomile-infused grappa, Aperol, lemon, and honey, while McClellan’s Retreat serves cold brew tea with grenadine, lemon, walnut liqueur, and Italian liqueur Borsci.