I’m not one to rail against pumpkin spice coffee drinks on Twitter (because I don’t want people to think I’m old), but a pumpkin cocktail is a little much for me. I can get into apple, and cinnamon isn’t unwelcome, but they all get leaned on a bit too heavily. But smoke? That’s a flavour I can get behind.
Talking about smoke as a good thing feels slightly gauche, but until recently, I really enjoyed “smokey” as a flavour. It reminds me of (controlled, safe) fires, fallen leaves, and cosy sweaters. It’s nice! If, like me, you are still a little skittish around flames, you can give your cocktail a nice smoked character without any fire at all — you just need some smoked tea syrup.
The syrup is made with lapsang souchong — “smoked tea” — a black, Chinese tea traditionally smoke-dried over pinewood. The smoke really comes through and, when combined with lots of sugar, you get a wonderful, smouldering cocktail syrup.
You can add the syrup to a wide variety of cocktails, but I really, really like it in an old fashioned. You don’t need a lot — just a teaspoon. It gives the drink just the right amount of burnt sweetness, without detracting from whatever bourbon you happen to be enjoying. To make a smoked tea old fashioned, you will need:
- 35mL bourbon
- 1 teaspoon smoked tea syrup (recipe here)
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
Combine all three ingredients in a low ball and stir. Add a large ice cube, stir a few more times, and garnish with a strip of lemon zest if you feel like it, making sure you express the oils from the zest before plunking it in the glass.