Since discovering that fermented food and drink causes an allergic reaction in my oesophagus, I’ve had to reconsider my drinking habits, which led me to a spirit-heavy refreshment portfolio, mostly consisting of vodka, gin and whiskey. The latter two lend themselves mostly to serving in cocktails or simply neat, but vodka is the most libre of the three. It’s the chicken of the drinking world – a perennial favorite that goes with everything, allows infinite mutations in preparation, and makes you feel great.
In that spirit, I’ve created my first vodka infusions with our old friend, Camellia Sinensis.
First, the foundation: vodka. I like Tito’s and Chopin vodka – the former is a superb value for the taste and cost, comes from Texas, and is made from the crop every midwesterner knows intimately: corn. Chopin is the fancy import, made in Poland from potatoes and finished by grim-faced Eastern Europeans (I assume).
Since this was my first attempt and all could go horribly wrong, I opted for a very inexpensive bottle of Svedka ($9.99 at County Market). I tried to acquire said vodka at Hyvee, but since I recently turned 30 and haven’t renewed my driver’s license, the stout clerk (who obviously had renewed her license many times) refused to sell me alcohol.
Svedka in hand, I turned to the tea. I chose two blends – Republic of Tea’s British Breakfast, a traditional black, English breakfast tea in sachets, and a loose leaf peach green tea. I started with the green tea, using a smaller 250ml bottle and about a tablespoon of loose tea. I capped the smaller bottle, shook a few times, and turned to the remaining vodka in the Svedka bottle. I decided to use four tea bags, which, in hindsight, was far too many. I sealed the bottle and took both outdoors – the sun was powerful, and I thought it would improve the infusion process.
After a few hours of waiting, I had the results. The black tea infusion was extremely dark, resembling ink in a huge capsule. The green tea was much lighter, the color of whiskey.
I chilled them both, and tried the black tea first. It had the taste of oversteeped tea – bitter in the extreme, with an added bite of alcohol. The flavor was greatly improved by adding lemon and fresh mint, but it’s clear that I overdid the black tea flavor.
The green tea was next – without any doctoring, the flavor was very pleasant. More peach would have been welcome, but might require adding actual peach fruit, since even the tea prepared with water doesn’t have a strong peach aroma like I prefer.
I want to continue experimenting with tea, and I think for the next batch, I will use better vodka and less tea. Future blends will most likely include Rooibos, Earl Grey (PIcard would have loved a little vodka in his tea now and then), and maybe a modified black tea recipe.
Until then, it’s bitter booze for me.