Food and Drink

These Tea Cocktails Will Class Up Your Holiday Drinking

Chai-infused brandy, green tea gin, and orange pekoe tea will give your drinks an upgrade.

Photo by Suited Hospitality
Photo by Suited Hospitality
Photo by Suited Hospitality

Bar manager Matt Katzin remembers the first time he walked into his local tea shop, Russian River Tea Company, outside of Santa Rosa, California. “You walk in there and they have all these teas you can smell and taste and I just fell in love with it,” says Katzin, who runs the drink program at Fern Bar in nearby Sebastopol. “Over the years, I got so inspired to see how we can use their tea to enhance our cocktails.”

Though the idea of tea as a cocktail ingredient is certainly not new-there’s nothing more classic this time of year than a hot toddy-bartenders are flexing their creative muscles when it comes to house-made infusions, creative liqueurs, and even tea powders as garnishes.

This tea-naissance is a welcome addition in the cocktail world, as more drinkers are looking to cut down on sugar without losing flavor and recent bartending books have reminded us of its versatility. In The Way of the Cocktail, Julia Momosé frequently utilizes cold brew sencha, or a loose leaf green tea, in her cocktails. Bar expert Shannon Mustipher‘s definitive book Tiki includes ingredients like Darjeeling-infused gin and smoked tea vodka.

Courtesy of Shannon Mustipher
Courtesy of Shannon Mustipher
Courtesy of Shannon Mustipher

“Historically, tea was commonly used in punches and then you saw it relegated to a hot toddy and mostly associated with whiskey and other dark spirits,” Mustipher says. “But in the last five years or so, I’m seeing people branch out, using it to add personality to vodka or complement herbaceous flavors in gin. Bartenders are bringing tea back.”

In fact, it was the tiki category where Katzin, who previously bartended at Spoonbar and Perch + Plow, started noticing tea more prevalently used in cocktails.

“At first, I was seeing it a lot in tiki bars around San Francisco,” he says. “A lot of people were using it in milk punches-steeping rum in tea to get this beautiful color and creaminess that would come out clarified. But now I’m starting to see tea become even more common in the cocktail scene.”

Fern Bar
Fern Bar
Fern Bar

Currently, six out of Fern Bar’s two-dozen cocktails use tea as an ingredient. For the Kyoto Sour, his team infuses gin with green tea, and combines that with coconut cream, spiced pear, lemon, and egg whites, with a sprinkle of matcha powder on top.

The bar’s Long Thailand Iced Tea is a punny twist that fuses tropical flavors of vanilla vodka, Thai tea, Falernum liqueur, pineapple, orange, and coconut. And the Creamsicle is another vibrant creation using tea-infused vodka, amaro, lime, mandarin, passionfruit, bubbles, and egg white.

“The Creamsicle is made with this Lemon Love Affair tea, which has got these notes of orange zest and coconut, and saffron,” Katzin explains. “It just has this creamy, floral, almost viscous element to it that really makes for a beautiful drink.”

Tea can add that full body texture, he says, but also additional flavor without sweetness, an element that can offer dryness or bitterness (like in a green tea) for the ultimate balance.

Of course, tea is also a natural fit for warm cocktails in the winter, something that Fern showcases with its newly added Naughty Toddy, in which chai masala tea is steeped with brandy room temperature, then added to hot water, a house-spiced pumpkin puree, brown sugar, and lemon.

PHOTO: COURTESY OF JAMESON
PHOTO: COURTESY OF JAMESON
PHOTO: COURTESY OF JAMESON

‘Tis the season to pour it up with friends and loved ones. Lucky for you, a Jameson, Ginger & Lime pairs with your chill Friendsgiving vibe. Of course, sipping a Hot Toddy will take the frost off a cold night in. If you’re more on the classy side, Jameson on the rocks goes perfectly with game night, (or any Thursday night really).

When you gather up your crew and open a bottle of Jameson, everything just gets that much smoother and a lot more festive.”That chai masala and pumpkin make it so full-bodied and those flavors just go so well together, especially this time of year,” Katzin says. “I think it helps for customers to see something on the menu, like a chai, that they might drink at home on a daily basis. They see it in a cocktail and are instantly drawn to it.”

Katzin, who originally went to culinary school, said he made the switch to bartending in order to feel more connected to his customers, seeing their reactions in real time. “I love pouring a hot drink or garnishing one with powdered tea so they get to see it all,” he says. “Tea just has so much depth and flavor to something without the sweetness in a syrup the booze in a liqueur.”

In fact, tea cocktails can easily be made non-alcoholic by skipping the infusion step all together, and customers are still left with a full-flavored, beautifully garnished drink.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more low or no ABV cocktails where tea plays a role in place of a wine, amaro, or bitter,” Mustipher says. “Tea is associated with relaxation and having a restorative quality. Given what the world has been going through the past couple of years, people are more focused on wellness and seeking a gentler way to enjoy cocktails.”

Courtesy of Fern Bar
Courtesy of Fern Bar
Courtesy of Fern Bar

At-Home Spiked Chai Recipe

By Matt Katzin, Fern Bar

Ingredients:
• 1½ ounces brandy
• ¾ ounces cinnamon simple (1 cup sugar, 1 cup water, 4 cinnamon stick, bring to boil)
• 1 ounce oat milk
• 4½ ounces hot chai

Directions:
Make your hot chai according to directions and make cinnamon simple syrup. Combine all ingredients and top with oat milk.

Equinox Cocktail Recipe

By Shannon Mustipher

Ingredients:

• 1 ounce thyme infused white wine syrup
• 2 ounces orange pekoe tea
• ½ ounce pomelo juice (grapefruit juice works)
• ¾ ounce lemon juice

Optional: 1½ ounces spirit of choice: rum or whiskey (serve hot or chilled); gin or vodka (serve chilled, topped with soda water or ginger beer

Directions:
Combine all but spirit in a shaker with ice. Shake with ice to chill and strain into a chilled collins glass over ice. Tip with soda. Grapefruit wheel and fresh sprigs of thyme. Optional: Incorporate spirit of choice and top soda water or ginger beer to fill glass.

White Wine Syrup

Ingredients:
• 12 ounces dry white wine (sauvignon blanc or similar)
• 10 ounces white sugar
• ¼ cup fresh thyme (ok to utilize a intact)

Directions:
In a saucepan, bring the wine ( ideally the remnant of an opened bottle that you no longer plan to serve) to a simmer. Add sugar, whisk briskly to dissolve, and reduce to lowest heat setting, and add rosemary. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, remove from heat, and allow to cool. Strain off solids, transfer syrup to a sterile bottle, and store refrigerated for up to one week.

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Jess Mayhugh is the editorial director of food & drink for Thrillist, who needs chai-infused brandy in her life as soon as possible. Follow her onTwitter and Instagram.

Food and Drink

How Talking Terps Has Influenced Cannabis Hype Culture

The origins and optimism behind the cannabis brand that sells out drops within minutes. Canabis...

Photo courtesy of Buckle Your Brain
Photo courtesy of Buckle Your Brain
Photo courtesy of Buckle Your Brain

Many cannabis brands describe themselves as “lifestyle brands” and “cultural disruptors.” Few of them actually impact lifestyles or broader cultural trends. Only one of them has figurines up on Stock X right now.

“For OG Terp Crawford to be featured amongst Nike, Jordans, Supreme, BAPE, and PS5s is really sick,” says Hope Lord, co-founder of cannabis lifestyle brand Talking Terps. “Stock X is not taking everyone who makes a toy and putting it up there.”Between their psychedelic graphics, cannabis-adjacent accessories, and famous OG Terp Crawford figurine, Talking Terps has established a cult following amongst cannabis enthusiasts, hypebeasts, and beyond. On paper, it’s a lifestyle brand interested in both cannabis and psychedelics. In action, Talking Terps is an alternative universe that bridges the gaps between toy culture, cannabis culture, psychedelic culture, and American pop culture.

The brand was established as a concept in 2015 by Leor Feit aka Hope Lord, Flatbush Zombies member Antonio Lewis aka Zombie Juice, and Flatbush Zombies spiritual adviser Phil Annand aka PTA Haiti 3000. One year later, the phrase “talking terps” popped in a Flatbush Zombies song, referring to terpenes, a compound found in cannabis.

“We had a show at Red Rocks in Colorado,” Lord recalls. “I had a friend that was part of Blue River Terpenes who brought us the first sample of cannabis-derived terpenes. Then Juice and Erick made a song with it in the chorus.”

Talking Terps
Talking Terps
Talking Terps

Once Talking Terps emerged as a phrase, the graphics, accessories, apparel, events, and, of course, toys were soon to follow. By 2017, the phrase was spotted on one of Snoop Dogg’s t-shirts. In 2019, the concept of Terp Crawford was born, launching the brand towards the collectible toy game.

While the first Terp Crawford was technically a plush pillow, the first toy-named OG Terp Crawford-came in March 2020. The 6-inch tall vinyl sculpture of a humanized weed nug with a joint in his hand and a smile on his face is meant to embody everything Hope, Juice and PTA stand for.

“Our message is to love each other and be happy,” Lord says. “Tread lightly and disrupt nothing.”OG Terp Crawford drops sell out in actual seconds and resell on sites like Stock X for over double their retail price. More than a simple toy, he’s a figure that Talking Terps hopes will evolve into a full-on cartoon character.

“As time goes, the idea for Terp Crawford is for him to be a Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny type figure from our world that can cross over,” Lord says. “There should be no reason one day that Terp Crawford’s not throwing a football in some skit on Monday Night Football.”

That’s not just a high aspiration-the team is currently working with 3 Hearts Entertainment to develop a TV show around him. The goal is for Terp Crawford to go global and for Talking Terps to go meta. With their vast graphic library and club of TT enthusiasts, virtual collectibles like NFTs only make sense (though the team can’t let the terp out of the hat just yet).

“I can see Terp Crawford in Japan, speaking in Japanese on TV,” Lord muses. “Once we take him somewhere else, we could do big sculptures, like at KAWS level, maybe. I think we’ll get a TV show. I can’t speak too much on what we’re working on for the metaverse, but it’s got a lot of components. I can say that we’re building a whole new platform called the meta-forest.”

It’s safe to say there will be a sold-out waitlist to get into that forest.
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Danté Jordan is a freelance writer, video producer, and media consultant specializing in cannabis culture and education. Follow him on Instagram.

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