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So when I started tasting through some tea samples I recently received from DavidsTea (hereafter referred to as DT because the styling of the name annoys me), I immediately began trying to decide what liquors would go best with each. The Montreal-based chain just opened its first store in Chicago (at 1645 N. Damen, with a couple more in the works) and offers a fairly overwhelming assortment of teas. Below, some notes on the teas themselves and possible alcohol pairings for cocktails. I didn't actually try making cocktails with them, so this is all speculation.
Coconut chai rooibos: As with most of the offerings from DT, the scent is what hits you first. This smells mostly like coconut, with some cloves, cardamom, and ginger. Pink peppercorns make it slightly spicy, and there's a strong coconut aftertaste—it would be good with spiced rum.
Mango white tea: This smells amazing, but doesn't taste like much. White tea is always subtle, but even the orange and mango, which smell strong enough, don't come through in the flavor. Alcohol would overwhelm the brewed tea, but you might be able to use the mix to infuse vodka or gin.
Lapsang souchong: This smoked black tea is, not surprisingly, incredibly smoky. I'd probably try it with a peaty scotch, but that might be overwhelming—bourbon could work better.
"Hot lips": A green tea with cinnamon, pink peppercorns, and chile peppers, this is spicy but light. It could be good with light rum, or maybe tequila and muddled orange peel.
"Forever nuts": Technically a fruit infusion, not a tea, this smells like cinnamon-sugar cookies, more like a food than a drink. You could eat it, actually; it consists of dried apple, almonds, cinnamon, and beet root and tastes nutty, cinnamony, a little fruity. I'm guessing that cinnamon schnapps and brandy would be great with it.
After taking notes on all the possibilities for tea/alcohol pairings, I went to the opening event for the first Chicago DT location, where the Violet Hour's Tyler Fry was serving cocktails made with Earl Grey-infused gin and pumpkin chai-spiced rum. Not only that, but one of their gift boxes is called the Cocktail Collection, and comes with recipe cards for various drinks. Those Canadians are way ahead of me. Below, the recipe for the one that looked most appealing to me.
Ingredients (serves four)
1 cup water
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup Citron Oolong
¾ cup dry gin
¾ cup club soda, chilled
¼ cup fresh lime juice
Combine water, sugar, and tea in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring gently to dissolve sugar; cook 30 seconds. Cool and strain. Combine tea mixture, gin, soda, and juice. Serve over ice.