Shanghai Tea

The sun is out and I’m basking in the blissful freedom of being done with an actuarial exam! The hope is that this will be my last (after over 8 years of taking exams) but there may be another sitting in my future depending on how this one went. Regardless, no studying means more time for developing new cocktails and sharing my adventures with you!

I’ve been so excited to share this latest development. After travelling to China, I fell in love with milk tea and often find myself having cravings for it. We explored 4 different cities on our trip (Beijing, Nanjing, Hangzhou and Shanghai) and sought out milk tea in each one. Major noms. Authentic milk tea can be difficult to find in the US without making the trek out to Chinatown. If you’ve never had it, I really can’t recommend it enough. Imagine a cold, refreshing black tea-based latte with honey sweetness. You can usually get it in bubble tea form with tapioca pearls but it’s fantastic without them as well.

Since the trip, I’ve been testing out creating the perfect milk tea at home. I’ve found that it’s tricky to get the black tea strong enough to maintain flavor when being mixed with milk but not bitter from over-brewing. Then I had a very exciting moment of clarity – what if I used tea-infused liquor and made milk tea in cocktail form?

Best. Choice. Ever.

Tea-infused liquor is a lot less daunting than it sounds. Alcohol tends to pull flavor out of anything you add to it – fresh fruit, herbs or in this case, tea. All you need to do is add a few tea bags to a bottle and let it sit for about 20-40 minutes, monitoring the color of the liquor throughout the process (and having a few tastes along the way). When the liquor is infused to your liking, simply remove the tea bags and you’re done! You may need to use more or less time depending on the tea (black and green tea could cause bitterness if kept in too long whereas herbal tea is safe to leave in for longer).

You also don’t need to use a bottle from your fancy stash if you’re doing an infusion as most of the taste profile will be covered by the tea. The $10 bottle of London Dry Gin I picked up at Trader Joe’s did the trick without breaking the bank. I chose to use Earl Grey tea over regular black tea as I prefer the floral flavor of bergamot. As a side note, Earl Grey-infused tea is one of the most amazing cocktail ingredients I’ve worked with to date.

I chose almond milk over regular milk because I prefer the lightness and slight nutty flavor. Also, dairy-free is the way to be when you're dealing with spring allergies. For the honey component, I recommend making a simple syrup to make the honey easier to mix in. All you need to do is heat 1:1 ratios of honey and water in a small saucepan on medium heat, stirring until the honey dissolves. The syrup can conveniently be stored in the fridge for future cocktail endeavors.

Shanghai Tea

Place all ingredients, along with ice, in a shaker and shake vigorously until chilled and slightly foamy. Strain into a coupe glass and garnish with a sweet Chinese treat. Enjoy while giving in to the urge to plan another international vacation.