Tonic? That’s so last season. T stands for tea! Russell Higham finds out more…
The British love a cuppa — they’re not alone, tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world after water — and they’re also rather fond of a G&T. That used to stand for gin and tonic but nowadays it’s just as likely to mean ‘gin and tea’. Bartenders have been combining the two since the 1800s because, as tea experts We Are Tea’s resident mixologist Nicole Sykes, explains “tea draws out the flavours of the botanicals in gin, which can be fruity, herbal, floral or citrus. They really work together and help each other shine”.
So where in London should you head to sample these leafy libations?
Mr Fogg’s are famous for their delectably quirky Victorian-themed bars all over central London. The Covent Garden venue has taken a quintessentially English tradition and given it a gin twist to provide what general manager Philippe Lache calls “a unique and elevated afternoon tea”. You still get the fruit scones with clotted cream and cute little sandwiches with the crusts cut off but these are served alongside delicious gin-based cocktails in teapots with names like ‘Bombay Tea-ser’. The experience also features a gin tasting plus a short lesson on the history of the drink.
Over in Kingly Court, Soho, delve underground to discover Cahoots — a secret bar in the form of a 1940s tube station, complete with old-fashioned wooden escalator and vintage railway carriage seats. The whole scene perfectly evokes wartime Britain but here, however, ‘fighting spirit’ means gin, vodka or whiskey — all of which they use with tea to create some fabulous and innovative drinks. Manager Frederika Ronchetti says “Being a Londoner I am thrilled to have my morning favourite featured so heavily in our menu. Tea is the vital ingredient in many of our different cocktails: we have a gin infused with Lapsang Souchong in one called ‘Turning over a new leaf’, Matcha tea made into a syrup in ‘You’ve met your matcha’, or as a blend of teas brewed in hot water added to make our ‘Punchadilly Circus’.
Fortnum & Mason’s range of traditional teas has always flown off the shelves since long before the Second World War. They can trace their history right back to 1707 but even they’ve had to introduce a new variety to meet demand from ‘gin and tea’ lovers at the iconic Piccadilly store. Their silky tea-bags combine green tea with real juniper berries and handpicked botanicals including coriander, fennel and lemon balm to recreate the taste — without the alcohol — of a refreshing gin & tonic topped off with fresh lime and cucumber. For those requiring a bit more kick from their teatime tipple, they also now sell a range of champagne-like sparkling tea with alcohol content from 0% to 5%.
To make your own Gin and Tea cocktail at home (we’ve named this one the “Tea N Tea”!), follow this recipe:
20ml Fresh lemon juice
20ml Jasmine tea syrup (cold infusion We Are Tea Jasmine Silver Needle tea and sugar together on a 1:1 ratio)
20ml Fresh egg white
Dry-shake to break up the egg white proteins, then shake with cubed ice. Strain into a coupette glass.