Thursday, December 20, 2018

Tea Cocktail: Oolong Milk Punch

The last time I was in London I had a delicious afternoon tea experience at The Punch Room that included historic British recipes and tea cocktails. The most memorable tea cocktail we had was a milk punch. I've been thinking about that milk punch every since I tried it, and I finally decided to create one of my own, with a bit of a tea twist: the oolong milk punch!

Traditional English milk punch is a crystal-clear drink even though milk is added. How is this achieved? Well, you do add milk, but the alcohol curdles it and the curds are filtered out. This seems like a bit of a hassle, and I realized that using a milk oolong would create the milky mouthfeel and flavor, without adding actual milk!

After doing a bit of research I discovered that milk punch was popular in colonial America as well, in fact Benjamin Franklin had his own version of milk punch. Some recipes contained black tea, some contained green tea, and some didn't have any tea at all. I took a few traditional recipes and made a few tweaks. Instead of milk, we're using the milky oolong. Instead of brandy I'm doing a mix of brandy and cointreau. Instead of sugar, I decided on simple syrup to make mixing a bit easier. All of this combined to make my oolong milk punch.

Tips To Consider:
-Please don't use your fancy Jin Xuan tea here. The nuances will be lost in the cocktail. As much as I hate to say it, a flavored milk oolong is actually a good choice. Many of the inexpensive milk oolongs on the market are actually flavored to get that creamy taste and texture. Something like this tea would be just fine. You want a strong buttered popcorn flavor here, nothing subtle and delicate. 
-This recipe traditionally uses dark rum or brandy, but I like to also use grand marnier. The burnt orange flavor and little bit of sweetness works well with the lemon and oolong. Since grand marnier does contain sugar, I added less simple syrup to the mix. You can omit the simple syrup altogether if you don't want it too sweet. 
-You can add spices to this tea cocktail, such as nutmeg and cloves for a festive kick. They're also in many of the traditional recipes.
-I like to serve these in vintage punch cups that I just happen to have at home (what, doesn't everyone have vintage punch cups?), but of course any cocktail glass would do. Or if you have small teacups, that would also work nicely.

Tea Happiness' Tea Cocktail: Oolong Milk Punch
Makes 3 cocktails
1 large lemon
1.5 cups water
2 heaping tbsp milk oolong tea (see above for info)
1/4 cup dark rum or brandy
1/2 cup grand marnier
1-2 tbsp simple syrup (to taste, here is a recipe, it's super simple to make)

Using a vegetable peeler, peel off strips of lemon rind for the garnish. Juice the lemon and set aside.

Heat the water to about 180°, and steep the tea in a small pot for about 5 minutes. You can't over-steep here, you want the flavor good and strong. Allow tea to cool fully, and strain.

In a cocktail shaker combine the tea, alcohol, and lemon. Give a few shakes to combine. Add the simple syrup to taste, and stir. Pour into glasses and garnish with a few strips of lemon rind.

I love serving punch for holiday gatherings, and this oolong milk punch is flavorful and unexpected. Plus, you don't have to deal with curdled milk. The sweet citrus flavor is perfect to wake up the palate before the start of a meal, and pairs nicely with salty snacks- especially buttered popcorn! If you're looking for more winter tea cocktail ideas, be sure to also check out my chai spiced hot toddy. Wishing everyone a joyous holiday season! Cheers!

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