So this post has been marinating in my drafts folder for a while, and current events have left me with the time needed to give it its due.
It is always a special thing to find a new cocktail blog post about Pegus, and more special when it is to be found in one of my regular reads. A few weeks ago, I ran across an article at Explore the Pour in the series on Smoked Cocktails. Robert uses Lapsang Souchong tea-infused Gin to make a Pegu. Here’s his recipe:
- 2 oz Lapsang Souchong-Infused Plymouth Gin
- 3/4 oz Orange Curacao
- 3/4 oz Lime Juice
- Dash Fee Brothers Orange Bitters
To me, there are two things going on here. Robert’s main point is smoke-essence in cocktails, but his post has also led me to go exploring around about the use of tea in general. More on that later. Smoke is a very hit or miss thing with me. In some cases, I love it, in others, it turns me off. Some smoked meats are awesome, others are just a perfectly good piece of flesh ruined. The same goes for smoky odors or environments. I’m not a smoker, so I wonder if being one changes, or more likely blunts, one’s appreciation for the subtleties of smoke. Anyone think they know?
I had never heard of Lapsang Souchong before. While I’m a tea drinker, rather than coffee, my tastes go to the mainstream like Earl Grey or English Breakfast. A little reading told me that Lapsang Souchong is a strong black tea that gets its smoky flavor tones from real smoke. Interesting stuff, but I note that Robert’s account of its origin conflicts with that on Wikipedia. As usual I side with virtually anyone over Wikipedia! I naively mentioned earlier that I’d get on this Smoky Pegu thing as soon as I could roll on down to Whole Foods. That turned out to be optimistic. No such luck there, or anywhere else around town. I had to resort to the Intertubes to find some and order it.
When the tea finally came, I noticed Robert had left out a crucial step: Infusuion instructions! Undaunted, I dove in. I had no Plymouth Gin on hand, and my Bombay Sapphire reserves were at a tragically low ebb. I decided on using the Brokers Gin I had remaining from my earlier experiments. I stuffed a bunch of the tea in a bottle from the Container Store, and poured the Gin over the top. I let it steep for about four hours, until I got a rich, dark, Laphroaig-level amber hue. Well, it certainly is pretty! I used the filter funnel from a red wine decanter to filter out the used tea. I was tempted to brew a cup with it, but got distracted. Another idea for when I try some more tea infusions.
I decided to use my basic Pegu recipe, preferring to eschew Robert’s non-PeguBlogApproved substitution of Orange Curaçao for Cointreau. Robert, please expect a visit from the Inquisition shortly about your apostacy. (You can expect it since it is the Pegu Inquisition, rather than the Spanish Inquisition. No one expects… Oh, the hell with it.) I also elected to make two half batches, and use the Fee Boys’ orange concoction in one, and Angustora in the other. It resulted in a subtle difference in color, but both were attractive.
I tried the one with my favorite bitters first. My first thought was that I probably over steeped the tea. But I tried another sip and it was OK, but not to my taste.
The Orange Bitters version was lighter in color, and I soon discovered that it was lighter in flavor as well. They are obviously the better choice with the smoke-infused Gin. The Angustora seems to clash with the tea and smoke flavors, drowning out the orange and the Gin, both. The Orange Bitters doesn’t compete so directly with the new elements, and the better balance allows you to enjoy all the flavors.
I didn’t finish the first glass. The second, I enjoyed to the last drop.
A neat experiment, and one I can endorse trying yourself. The only real negative I have about the drink is that it left me with a bit of dry mouth, but again, that was likely due to too much tea infusing time.
- 3 parts Lapsang Souchong Infused Broker’s Gin
- 1 Part Cointreau
- 1 part Lime Juice
- 2-3 dashes Fee Brothers Orange Bitters
I’ll end this post with a little bleg, then. If anyone has some good advice as to rules of thumb about infusing spirits with tea, I’d appreciate a heads up. I’d like to try several things, from some vodka drinks, to Pegus with more standard teas. I think the flavors would meld, and they certainly are