When creating non-alcoholic cocktails, a “base spirit” is still an important component to the construction of the drink. Just as a Manhattan is usually defined with the use of whiskey, zero proof cocktails also have an ingredient that acts as the backbone to the drink. Juices, fruit purees, shrubs, and sparkling waters are all products I reach for when creating my spirit free lists, but none are quite as popular as tea.
Tea is ideal as the base for cocktails because it tends to share similar properties to alcohol in terms of body and mouthfeel—astringency, bitterness, umami, botanics, and sugars are all present in some form in teas. Because of this, I have an easier time manipulating tea to replicate spirits. For example, by adjusting the brewing time of an astringent black tea, I can create a long, slow dehydration in the back of the throat similar to the feeling you get after drinking a high proofed whiskey.
Hibiscus and black teas are two of my favorite varieties to use in zero proof cocktails, but just as there are thousands of tequilas and gins out there, so are there thousands of teas!
Just Can’t Say No to You
This cocktail is based in hibiscus tea but features some beautiful savory notes with the addition of celery and strawberry with bitter tonic water.
1 celery stalk, muddled
1 1/2 oz hibiscus tea
3/4 oz rich simple syrup (2:1)
1/2 oz lemon
3 dash celery bitters (optional)
- In a cocktail shaker tin, muddle together celery, strawberries, and syrup.
- Add tea, bitters, and lemon juice with ice. Shake well, about 40 seconds.
- Strain over ice into a rocks glass. Top with a splash of tonic water and swizzle together with a bar spoon. Garnish with a lemon twist and celery stalk.
Broken Heart’s Gentleman’s Club
Aloe vera is a plant with some pretty damn impressive health benefits. It also has an acidic flavor that balances the strawberry without adding too much lemon juice.
1 1/2 oz Hibiscus Tea
1 1/4 oz Strawberry Puree (1:1 strawberries to sugar, blended)
3/4 oz Aloe Vera Juice
3/4 oz Lemon
1/2 oz Vanilla tea Syrup
3/4 oz Egg White
- Combine all ingredients into a shaker tin with ice. Shake well until egg white foams, about 60 seconds.
- Strain cocktail out of tin and discard ice. Return to shaker and dry shake without ice for 2-30 seconds.
- Strain into a large coupe glass. Drop angostura over foam if desired and enjoy!
Vanilla Tea Syrup
1/2 cup vanilla tea, brewed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
- Brew vanilla tea per instructions.
- Heat finished tea over medium-high until it simmers. Stir in sugar until it has completely dissolved.
- Allow to simmer until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely. Store chilled for up to 14 days.