Home-Made Tea Liqueurs
Whilst reading the 1997 edition of Pacult’s Kindred Spirits, I was intrigued by his scathing review of an “oozing” Earl Grey English Liqueur; figuring that such a product was unlikely to be available, I became fascinated with the idea of creating my own. After a little research, I managed to cobble together a recipe from a few different sources and found myself eagerly on a quest for some loose tea leaves.
After the relative success of the resultant liqueur, I started to think about possible variations. I finally settled on three: the first was inspired by a discussion on tea that I had had at a Beefeater 24 event with Clayton and Liz, where Lapsang Shoshong was mentioned; Green Tea seemed a natural fit for the second; and thirdly, Mrs. B, with her unique sense of humour, suggested using English Breakfast Tea.
Here are my tasting notes of the results:
Earl Grey Liqueur
With a citrus nose, it started like iced tea. The initial sweetness was replaced by the bitter tannins, which then faded to a tea-like muskiness; afterward, there was a comeback of warm vanilla and a slightly bitter bite that eventually left behind a pleasant warmth.
Green Tea Liqueur
This smelt like soggy cabbage, this tasted like soggy cabbage.
To give it its due, this started pleasantly enough, in a sweet fashion, but it turned out to be merely a diversion prior your being hit with a harsh bitterness that remained until the end. The initial false sweetness reminds me of certain herbal liqueurs, such as Suze & Campari.
English Breakfast I
This was a warm shade of ochre and smelt like tea sweetened with honey.
It was the sweetest of the bunch and started off with a honey-like sweetness that made way for an understated bitterness. It ended with a warming punch and, although it had the same alcohol content as the others, it certainly tasted stronger. It improved when cut with a little water.
I found that this made a palatable cream liqueur when mixed two parts liqueur to one part cream.
Until I decided to make a liqueur out of this, I had never tried this tea before. This liqueur smelt like cedar wood and smoked wood chips. Its taste reminded me of Bonfire Night, with flavours of cured meats and Bavarian smoked cheese. Smoky. This had a lovely warmth and was truly unlike anything I have ever had before (so much for modesty), and it didn’t have the bitterness of the others. Definitely my favourite.
English Breakfast II
A second version involved a more complicated manufacturing process and, additionally, contained some gin, as I ran out of vodka. I also combined the tea and sugar before adding any spirits, and some water was added to the final product to balance out the flavour. The result was a slightly thicker, sweeter version, which resembled commercially available liqueurs more closely than the others. I took some along to a recent tonic tasting at Graphic and it seemed to go down well.
I also took the Lapsang Souchong liqueur along to Graphic and one of their great Bartenders, Adam, created this:
The Fag Hag Cocktail
30ml Plymouth Gin
20ml Lemon Juice
15ml Lapsang Souchong Liqueur
10ml Sugar Syrup
20ml Egg White
Double shake, strain and serve.
All in all, I’ve immensely enjoyed experimenting with these liqueurs and I have already had requests for more; in particular, more batches of Lapsang Souchong and English Breakfast are in the pipeline. I’ll be sure to keep you posted with updates on any future experiments.
If you have any comments or suggestions about what other teas I could try please comment below: