A trip to Seattle this summer introduced me to lapsang tea, a love-it-or-hate-it type of black tea that has been smoked over a pine fire to give it a characteristic smoky flavour. I loved it and purchased some immediately for return to Vancouver. After having sampled its delights, it occurred to me that this could be a very simple way to add that smoky-peaty flavor I love to my favorite bourbon.
With very little practical knowledge of infusions other than that gleaned from the internet and a working knowledge of chemistry/biology, I determined there could be a few barriers to a perfect product. I would have to guesstimate an appropriate amount of tea to add to an appropriate amount of bourbon, and I would have to ensure not to leave it too long risking co-infusion of the bitter tannins. After quizzing a friend who had made me anise-infused gin and lavender-infused gin as a Christmas present (see: http://surladerive.tumblr.com/), I settled on the recipe that follows:
1 tbsp lapsang tea
1 cup Bulleit bourbon
Infuse 10 minutes, strain with a fine sieve.
It turned out quite delicious with a mild smoke finish and what seems to be an intensified burn compared to the uninfused bourbon. It had just a hint of bitterness so any longer infusion would likely be too much. It also deepened the color from honey-brown to more of an Amber-brown. I am contemplating doing another infusion to intensify the smokeyness, try to emulate the peated Connemara whiskey I picked up in Ireland this summer, and be able to drink smoky Manhattans again. In the future, I would likely just double the amount of tea I use in my first infusion.
The best part of the whole experience was definitely deciding how to put everything together in a cocktail (especially with my limited bar for my time here in Prince George):
Smoky Orange Bourbonade
1.5 oz Bulleit bourbon
Juice of 1 mandarin Orange
3/4 tsp simple syrup
On a brief note, I also tried a similar infusion with Earl Grey tea to similarly delicious results.
Earl Grey Sour
1 oz Earl Grey Infused Bourbon
1/2 oz lemon juice
2 dashes Fees Brothers lemon bitters
1.5 tsp simple syrup
flamed lemon peel for garnish
Now that my brain has latched on to the idea of tea infusions, it seems the possibilities are endless……