You Deserve Smoked Tea the Old Fashioned Way

Autumn is a season with an aggressive theme. Of course, there are holidays that have an equal number of themes, but fall food and drinks last for months, and fall-themed flavors tend to be pretty sweet.

I’m not the type to scold pumpkin spice coffee drinks on Twitter (because I don’t want people to think I’m old), but pumpkin cocktail is a bit too much for me. I can eat an apple and the cinnamon is not undesirable, but they all overload too much. But smoking? This is a scent that just hints at the season.

Talking about smoke as good sounds a little silly, but until recently I really liked the “smoky” autumn flavor. It reminds me of (controlled, safe) bonfires, fallen leaves and cozy sweaters. Nicely! If you, like me, are still a little intimidated by the flame, you can give the cocktail a pleasant smoky character without any fire – you just need some smoked tea syrup .

The syrup is made from lapsang sushong – “smoked tea” – black Chinese tea that is traditionally smoke-dried over a pine forest. The smoke really does work through it, and when combined with a lot of sugar, it makes a wonderful smoldering cocktail syrup.

You can add syrup to all kinds of cocktails, but I really, really like it in the old style. You don’t need much – just a teaspoon. It gives the drink the right amount of burnt sweetness without distracting from the bourbon flavor you enjoy. To make smoked tea look old-fashioned, you will need:

  • 1 1/2 ounce bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon smoked tea syrup (recipe here )
  • 2 drops of Angostura bitter

Combine all three ingredients in a low bowl and stir to combine. Add a large ice cube, stir a few more times and garnish with a strip of lemon zest, if desired, be sure to squeeze the oil out of the zest before tossing it into the glass.

Updated Feb 17, 2021 to adjust the amount of bourbon to use.

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