I told y’all that teacup cocktails were going to be thing and here we are again. My mom is into fine china and crystal and dainty things that are easily crushed by huge monkey hands, so I am lucky enough to have access to the spoils of a lifetime of collecting and estate sales. One of the things I have always admired about mom’s approach to life is that things are meant to be used, not just looked at and dusted. Even with her encouragement, I am often more than a little nervous when using a bone china teacup I can nearly see through or, in this case, one encrusted in 24K gold. Still, I have wanted to make a drink in one of these cups for quite a while, and when I watched the folks from Dux Gins & Cocktails Borne make this one, I knew the time had come. So join me as we stand and make, the Earl Grey, Not.
So where did I find this recipe? To paraphrase the Beach Boys or David Lee Roth, depending on where you fall generationally, “I’ve been all round this great big world and I’ve seen all kinds of bars” I believe that one of the great unsung pleasures in life is discovering a truly great bar. What does it take to be a great bar? It is kinda like obscenity in the eyes of the US Supreme Court, it is hard to define clearly, but I know when I see it. A truly great bar can be many things, but mostly it is about the experience. I have been in places that had amazing drinks, but were not great bars. It has a lot to do with how the different elements come together. A great bar experience stays with you, through time and across distance, and like with most things, it is all about the people. Solid drinks and a cool atmosphere go a long way toward setting the scene, but it usually comes down to the true heart of the bar, the folks behind it. This drink comes from one of my all-time favorites, Dux in Barcelona. You should go there and witness their incredible craft, first hand. Until that is practical, follow them so you can learn to make great drinks firsthand… virtually. I love watching them work and their cocktails from home series has been a great reminder that craft is about the people, not the place. They didn’t give this drink a name in the video, but I gave it one for my notes and it kinda stuck, and then some kismet happened, but I am getting ahead of myself.
First things first, you need to brew some tea. I did two tablespoons of Earl Grey in 20 ounces of water, steeped 7 minutes. Strain out the tea and mix in 1/2 cup of sugar and chill. I felt like I was making tea simple syrup but Laura tasted it and said, I could just call it Southern Sweet Tea. Now we are ready for the drink, so grab your tins and toss in 1 3/4 ounces of Irish Whiskey, I went with Dead Rabbit; 3/4 of an ounce of fresh squeezed lemon juice, 3 1/2 ounces of Earl Grey syrup, 1/2 an ounce of egg white or aquafaba, and I added one drop of “contraband” tonka bean bitters, for old times sake. You can skip the bitters, the drink doesn’t really need them. We discovered them at Dux and, with their help and a series of madcap adventures and cab rides, we were able to acquire our own bottle. Add ice and shake. I shake this one 20-30 seconds over ice then double strain from one tin to the other before pouring the ice out and giving it another “dry shake”. The dry shake helps the aquafaba or egg white give a nice creamy mouthfeel to the drink with all those proteins doing their thing. Strain into an exquisite gold encrusted porcelain teacup and garnish with a bit of fresh mint and some lemon zest. Actually, you will have enough for two cups, so plan accordingly or just serve in a highball glass.
This drink is seriously pretty, even without the fancy cup, but the taste… oh my goodness, the taste. This simple cocktail is one of the best I have made yet. It is a nearly perfect balance of flavors. Nothing fighting, it isn’t booze or acid forward, it is just balanced and amazing. Make this drink, seriously. Laura loved it and after she finished the first cup, she asked what it was called. I told her I wasn’t sure, that I had been calling it “Earl Grey, Not” and got a blank stare, so I explained the sort of tenuous connection to Star Trek TNG and Captain Picard’s traditional “Tea. Earl Grey, hot.” She replied, “Oh, that makes sense, then.” I was kind of surprised, since it felt like a bit of a stretch for me, till she turned over the saucer to show me the makers mark. This exquisite 24K gold encrusted teacup and saucer with roses and daisy embossing was manufactured in the early 1900’s, by the Pickard China Company. I had no idea, but that’s kismet, for you. Stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.