Festive Tea Cocktails for the Winter, Featuring Tea Sparrow

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While I am not typically a big drinker, I do love the occasional cocktail. I often have them out at one of the wonderful bars or distilleries in DC, but once in a while I like to make my own. Now, I like classic cocktails, so when I found out that Daly’s Bartenders’ Encyclopedia from 1903 was available in its entirety on Google Books, I had to take a look. It’s commonly believed that cocktails were popularized in the 1920s when Prohibition led bartenders to mix lower-quality, homemade booze with other ingredients to disguise the flavor, but this book, released more than 15 years before the beginning of Prohibition, contains a multitude of recipes, including some familiar favorites.

In exploring the recipes, I learned that tea was actually part of some traditional cocktail recipes, and it was a common ingredient in punches, so I reached out to Tea Sparrow again to see if they were interested in providing me some teas to work into my Edwardian-era cocktails. Rather than just sticking straight to the recipe, here I’ve decided to take three recipes and play with them a little. One is a tea-based cocktail on its own, but I’ve given it my own twist, and the other two did not originally include tea, but they work with it well.

The teas for these cocktails are from Tea Sparrow, who previously sent me their subscription box and who make some of the only flavored teas that I’ve actually liked recently. They’ve generously offered my readers a discount, which is at the bottom of this post.

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Tea Cobbler with Ruby Oolong

This was the original recipe that started the idea. Originally, a tea cobbler likely would have been made with black tea, but I decided to make a version with Ruby Oolong, since the flavor is interesting and refreshing, with a depth that suits colder weather. Despite being a cold cocktail, the combination of fruit, tea, and rum would make a nice pick-me-up at a holiday brunch.

I cold brewed my oolong for this cocktail to bring out the complex flavors and avoid melting the ice. I also decided to use the juice of half an orange instead of the juice of a lemon, which meant I didn’t need the sugar. So I put six ice cubes in a glass, added the juice of half an orange, filled it halfway with cold-brewed tea, and then topped with an ounce of rum and an orange peel twist. I used a rum from Maryland instead of Jamaica rum.

The whole effect is absolutely perfect, the sweetness of the oolong marrying with the sweetness of the rum and orange juice, with just a little fragrance to offset the bitterness of the orange peel and the smoky oakiness of the rum.

Hot Whiskey Cocktail with Cardamom Cream Tea

This one came to mind when Dan got a nasty cold and we were talking about a hot toddy, and Daly’s Hot Whiskey Cocktail is like a fancy hot toddy. I realized that any of the hot water cocktails from Daly’s guide could be made with tea in place of the hot water for a lovely hot tea cocktail. When I saw the Cardamom Cream tea on Tea Sparrow’s website, I knew it was perfect for this classic cocktail. The Cardamom Cream is based on Earl Grey tea, with rose, vanilla, and cardamom, making this a delightful twist on an Earl Grey cocktail.

And, oh boy, was I right! Daly suggests serving this in a hot whiskey glass (which is similar to an Irish coffee glass), but as I lack one of those, I served it in a Turkish tea cup because the combination of rose and cardamom in the tea made it seem appropriate. I put one teaspoon of sugar in the bottom of the cup, topped it with tea to about halfway full, added a dash of Angostura bitters, and then 1.5 oz. of bourbon whiskey. I garnished it with an orange twist rather than a lemon twist because I love orange and cardamom. This was probably my favorite of the three — it was the perfect blend of flavors, sweetness, and warmth.

Daly suggests that it is perfect to warm up after driving or automobiling in chilly weather, but I think it’s perfect for after shoveling show or taking a winter morning walk. Or just for relaxing inside with your nutcracker.

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Hot Egg Nog with Cacao Tea

The Hot Egg Nog was an interesting recipe because I had just been playing with adding store-bought egg nog to my tea. I blended the recipe for hot egg nog and brandy egg nog, and added cacao shell tea to give it a chocolate-y kick. The original recipe called for two ounces of liquor, but I cut it down to an ounce and a half, which was the perfect amount.

First I heated a cup of whole milk with a rounded tablespoon of cacao shell tea on the stove over medium-high heat until it reached about 180F (when tiny bubbles appear around the edges). I turned off the heat and let it steep for five more minutes, and then returned it to 180F. In a small bowl, I whisked together two teaspoons of sugar with an egg yolk and an ounce and a half of brandy until well-mixed and slightly lighter in color. Then, I slowly strained in the hot milk while whisking constantly (it helps to have a friend to hold the strainer). This was poured into a mug and garnished with a grating of nutmeg.

This packs a kick, probably from the hot milk vaporizing the alcohol above the surface of the drink, but I love the combination of milk, brandy, and the light chocolate flavor of the cacao tea. It reminds me a little of the Swiss chocolate ice cream at a local ice cream parlor we went to when I was a child, which was a very light chocolate ice cream. And having it warm makes it feel cozy and comforting. It’s perfect for an evening in, especially since the cacao shell tea has no caffeine to speak of.

NB: Tea Sparrow sent these teas for free in exchange for being featured in this post. You can use the code “TeaLeavesandTweed” for 20% off your first order, or 20% off your first month if you purchase a subscription. If you are interested in collaboration or sponsorship, please contact me.

A Day in the Life of an Enthusiastic Amateur Blogger

Last week, Eric at One Man’s Tea Journey posted “a day in the life,” where he talked about the teas he drank in a typical (or possibly not-so-typical) day, and wondered aloud what others’ tea days look like. So I thought I would oblige by sharing a day in tea for me. This isn’t the first time I’ve shared a post like this, but it will be the first time I actually talk about my tea habits on a typical day.

Now, similarly to Eric, I have never made money from my blog in my five years of blogging. I have received some free and discounted samples, and occasionally someone will use an affiliate link, which does technically earn me a little store credit to a place I used to shop, but really, this blog is a labor of love, not a revenue stream. I have flirted with the idea of monetizing, so if you’re a company and interested in paying me for the kind of thing you see around here (or on my YouTube channel), call me. I am definitely still a blogger because, well, I blog — Je blog, tu blogs, il/elle blog, etc. — but I am decidedly merely an enthusiastic amateur, not a professional.

Anyway, on to the tea. The day I’ve decided to record is a fairly standard Friday, with the small exception of the fact that I left work early to attend our company’s holiday party. But since most of my tea-drinking is done by 4pm anyway, that doesn’t really affect the tea.

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My day generally starts at 5:15 a.m. when my alarm goes off. If I’m feeling diligent, I will get up right away; otherwise, I will usually set a 10-minute timer as a sort of snooze alarm. I often will use at least some of that time to check my phone, at least in part because I want the light to help wake me up. But this particular Friday, Elliot had woken up at 4:20 wanting to be nursed, so I hadn’t fallen back asleep when my alarm went off, which actually made for a rather leisurely morning. I got out of bed at 5:15, fed the cat, and filled the kettle. I programmed it and then went to shower. As I’ve discussed before, I only wash my hair twice a week, and always in the afternoon or evening, so my showers are quick affairs, generally about as long again as it takes the water to heat up. By the time I’d showered, washed my face, and put on vitamin C serum, the water was hot.

I went back out to the kitchen, where I set up my tea tray with my Chaozhou pot, a pitcher, and a cup. I used 4g of Shui Xian from Old Ways Tea (if I were Eric, I might note that this was $0.88 worth of tea) for my session, reserving the rinse/first steeping, and steeping it three more times, savoring each of those while I prepared Elliot’s bottles and lunch, and made myself a bowl of yogurt. After I’d steeped it those three times after the rinse, I started pouring the steepings into my favorite mug. I can get about four steepings into the mug, which I take back into the bedroom to enjoy with my first breakfast while Elliot sleeps and my husband gets up to shower. Elliot woke up before I finished, so I finished my tea while nursing him again, and then I got dressed, drank the rinse, and brushed my teeth and did my “makeup” (tinted sunscreen).

I will sometimes put the spent leaves into a travel mug with more hot water, but this particular morning, I was feeling the energy of the tea a bit more than usual and it was making me feel a little woozy, so I called the session there and cleaned up. After getting my shoes, coat, and handbag, I left the house shortly after 7 a.m.

On my way to work, I decided I wanted a pastry, so I stopped at my favorite bakery for a sweet fougasse, a delicious thing with orange blossom and sugar on the outside. The floral sweet called for just the right accompaniment, and I thought that would be the Bitterleaf Sugar Glider, but when I opened my tin, I found only dust and regret, so I decided to have some Iron Goddess oolong from the Easthill Tea Co. This was a gift from a colleague when she went to Chicago, so I honestly have no idea how much those 5g of tea would cost.

At my desk, I typically use either a gaiwan or my “fish teapot” — an easy gaiwan set my husband bought me for my birthday a couple years ago. This morning, I decided to go with the gaiwan. I have a kettle on my desk to boil water, so I can brew again and again without having to get up. I probably get at least seven or eight steepings out of a single batch of leaves, but I honestly almost never keep count. I just keep steeping until I don’t feel like steeping anymore. This day was no different, and a cup of floral oolong and a floral pastry made for a delightful second breakfast. I continued steeping this out until it was time to head to the party at 3:30.

The party did not afford me the chance to have and more tea, but I did have some lovely cocktails. They actually had a cocktail on the menu that was made with tea, but they had run out of the syrups used for it, so they couldn’t make it. But I had variations on a Manhattan and an Old Fashioned, which are usuals for me, since I love whiskeys/whiskies.

The party was lovely, though I am not used to having much to drink, so I appreciated a somewhat bracing walk to the train before riding home. At home, it was pretty much time to get Elliot ready for bed, so I made a cup of lavender-chamomile tea while I washed up and did my skin care. I always steep it, remove the flowers, and then cover the brewed tea to keep it warm so I can put Elliot to bed and then enjoy a nice warm cup of tea while I unwind. It was a perfect finish to a perfect day of tea.

So that is my “day in tea (and other beverages).” What does yours look like?

Outing: Republic Restoratives Distillery Tour and Tasting

I’m back from my whirlwind wedding weekend, and I thought I’d share my fun, post-wedding outing with you. The day after the wedding, Mr. Tweed and I started out the day at our favorite coffee shop to have a little breakfast and see a few of our guests who stuck around town overnight. Then, we ran some errands, including a trip downtown to gather last-minute necessities for our upcoming honeymoon. While we were downtown, my sister (in from Australia for the wedding!) mentioned that she was going to tour a local distillery later that afternoon. So we stayed downtown and met her.

The first thing to understand is that my sister is a bit of a whiz when it comes to whiskeys of all kinds. She runs a sort of educational and networking group that introduces different kinds of whiskeys to a wide audience. As a lover of brown spirits myself, I heartily approve. So when she mentioned a drinks-related outing, I leapt at the opportunity.

Republic Restoratives is a distillery and tasting room in the heart of Northeast D. C., where, because of the peculiarities of D. C. law, they can ferment, distill, age, bottle, sell, and taste their own small-batch spirits. Currently, the only entirely-in-house spirit is their Civic vodka, because they are only about a year old. But give it a year or so, and there will be in-house bourbon and rye. Currently, they offer a bourbon and a rye that they blend and finish themselves, as well. The tour and tasting gives you a glimpse into the process, from fermentation to barrel-aging, as well as a taste of each of the three spirits they currently offer. And off to one side is the tasting room, where bartenders whip up cocktails based on each of their spirits. The only rule is that each cocktail must have at least one of their in-house spirits. But apart from that, the bartenders are perfectly willing to get creative.

The tour itself was not only entertaining, as our guide had the personality to make the chemistry involved in brewing interesting to a wide audience, but educational. I had no idea the stringent requirements needed to call something “bourbon” versus other kinds of American whiskey. And I found their Rodham Rye to be particularly enjoyable, both in the Sazerac that I brought with me on the tour, and alone as part of the tasting.

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After the tour and tasting, we reconvened to the tasting room, where we partook of another round of cocktails. This time, I went for a Boulevardier, which is perfect for a warm spring day. Their bourbon was the perfect match against the vermouth and Campari, but I would be curious to try it again with their rye. It was a perfect way to decompress after the hectic wedding days, and enjoy the company of family I don’t get to see often. Plus, a tour and a tasting for the price of a D. C. cocktail isn’t bad.