I'm definitely prone to focus too much on the utilitarian side of tea. I sip English Breakfast to wake up and turn to my favorite echinacea infusion not because I especially enjoy the taste, but because I've convinced myself that if I drink enough of it, a winter cold won't last as long. But tea also offers a myriad of flavors: there's rich, earthy pu-ehr, grassy and bittersweet green teas, malty black teas, smoky and bacony Lapsang souchong, and delicate white teas, not to mention the wide range of herbal options available. In an infusion, a syrup, or a straight-up brew, tea goes way beyond function and brings delicious and complex flavors to these 3 super-simple cocktails.
Pu-erh Old Fashioned
Historic to China's Yunnan province, Pu-erh tea gets its signature rich earthy notes by undergoing a unique fermentation process. The resulting full-bodied brew (which might remind you of the scent of forest soil after it rains) strikes me as something that would appeal to folks who lean toward brown spirits.
This rich tea is ideal for dressing up a classic whiskey cocktail like an Old Fashioned. Part of what defines an Old Fashioned is its simplicity, and this drink preserves that by keeping all of the well-loved elements of an Old Fashioned intact and adding depth and earthiness with a Pu-erh infused bourbon.
Chamomile Tequila Sour
Margaritas stress me out. My mind immediately goes to a packed bar with a spinning slushy machine. This margarita-inspired tequila sour does exactly the opposite. A simple syrup made from chamomile, which has a reputation for aiding sleep and relieving stress, pairs beautifully with a blanco tequila that boasts major floral notes. Along with the lime, the salted rim helps bring out the savory side of both the chamomile and the tequila, so definitely don't skip it.
Cynar Iced Tea
Cynar, an Italian bitter liqueur with a brazen artichoke on its label, is flavored with many herbs and plants, of which artichoke is just one. Taking a cue from how it's traditionally served—on the rocks or with a splash of soda—I kept it simple here. The delicately grassy, vegetal flavors in green tea are a perfect complement to Cynar. The result is a super drinkable and surprisingly refreshing iced tea with a bitter kick that's easily scaled up to fill a pitcher.