Thirsty Thursday: The Sweet Tea Sidecar
I know, I know. It’s been entirely too long since I’ve updated you guys on my cocktail chronicles. Seems I’ve had my hands a bit full the last couple of months, but I promise there are amazing things to come as a result (more on that soon)!
My most recent exploration of the cocktail kingdom occurred this past weekend, in collaboration with Justin Andrews of Macon Pops – for the Macon Arts Alliance “Taste of the Arts 2016: Soul Train”. Although the Taste of the Arts wasn’t technically a cocktail competition, once Justin asked me to partner with him, I assumed equal responsibility of the win regardless (even though I know his collard green, bacon and artichoke heart dip was the real reason we won), and applied myself to the creation of something Soul Train and southern themed. My final product surprised even me – it was just way too easy.
If you’ve ever tried googling “70’s cocktails” or any particular era in cocktail history, you’ll realize that nobody really knows when the majority of many reputable cocktails emerged into society, and that nobody really knows who created them. That being said, my research seemed to relatively certainly conclude that the Sidecar was a 70’s drink, so I armed myself with one of the simplest equal parts recipes of all time, and set out to create a southern 70’s fusion.
If you are trying to get your feet wet in the mixology/infusion/made from scratch cocktail game…tea infusions are where you should start. This was such a simple project. For my Taste of the Arts submission, I created a Sweet Tea Sidecar: Earl Grey tea infused brandy, house made vanilla bean simple syrup, Luxardo orange liqueur, and fresh squeezed lemon juice. Here’s how it went down:
Earl Grey infused brandy
750mL bottle of standard/well brandy (I used E&J)
4 tablespoons of loose leaf Earl Grey tea (I used Vining’s brand)
Empty bottle of brandy into a large, airtight container (I always prefer Mason jars) and add loose leaf tea. Allow to infuse for 2-8 hours, shaking and testing flavor every 2 hours. You should be able to clearly taste the orange and vanilla notes of the Earl Grey through the flavor of the brandy, but NOT so much that the finishing flavor is bitter on your palate. Once you are certain you can taste the tea, strain out the remaining leaves and return your infused brandy to the bottle.
Vanilla Bean Simple
2 cups raw cane sugar (I used 1 cup turbinado and 1 cup unbleached cane sugar)
2 cups water
1 madagascar vanilla bean (I order mine in bulk on Amazon on the cheap cheap)
Measure your sugar and water into a saucepan and set on the stove on low to medium heat. You want to melt the sugar, not scorch it. Split your vanilla bean down the middle with a sharp pairing knife, and carefully, with the blade at an angle flat against the pod, scrape all the seeds out of the pod and onto the tip of your knife. Add the contents of the pod to your sugar and water mixture, then cut the vanilla bean pod into a few pieces and add it to the mix. Stir mixture until sugar has completely dissolved and syrup is about to simmer, then remove from the stove and allow to return to room temperature before bottling. You can leave the seeds and pods in the syrup if you want; there’s no such thing as too much vanilla, but I’ve found that the flavor is sufficient for me after 3 to four days, and it saves me the effort of double straining each cocktail I pour. Refrigeration isn’t necessary, but it will extend the shelf life of your syrup.
The final product came down to this:
1oz Earl Grey infused brandy
3/4oz fresh squeezed, double strained lemon juice
1/2oz vanilla bean simple
1/2oz orange liqueur (I used Luxardo)
Combine all ingredients in a shaker tin, fill with ice and shake vigorously until chilled, then strain into a coupe or martini glass.
For the garnish, I decided to experiment with something I’d been wanting to try for months, but had not yet stumbled upon the opportunity, or had the means by which to attempt it: dehydrated fruit. Knowing that I had to prepare enough cocktails for at least 150 people, I wanted a garnish that would be both appealing and cost efficient, so I thinly sliced 15 lemons, dipped the slices in 2:1 simple syrup (Sierra’s brilliant idea), and lined the trays of Dovetail’s dehydrator for 10 hours. The final product was beautiful! I might make a few changes to my method next time I try it, but for the simplicity of the task, I was by no means disappointed.
Although the Taste of the Arts event was a bit too busy for me to utilize my sweet and tangy slices, I’m almost more pleased that I get to serve them in the beautiful couple glasses at Dovetail, where I know my guests will have plenty of time to admire them as they sip :).
Have an idea for a cocktail or a mixer but need some help? Ask me anything!
Chelsea Hughes is an artist and avid student of the bartending world. With over ten years of experience in the restaurant industry, working with seasoned professionals from all over middle Georgia, New Orleans, Las Vegas and Charlotte, she strives to bring a new and creative approach to bartending in the south. When you find her mixing and muddling a vast array of libations behind the bar at Meritage in downtown Columbus, don't be surprised if she talks you out of your bourbon and diet and into a cranberry spice infused Manhattan. She has a tendency to bore folks with her endless explorations of craft beer and bourbon and has an unhealthy obsession with Harry Potter. So, choose your words wisely when you patronize her bar, lest you spark a conversation from which you cannot escape. In her spare time, Chelsea enjoys crafting jewelry, listening to progressive dubstep (and occasionally some Beethoven), cooking, and playing in the dirt aka gardening.