1 Ingredient, 3 Ways: Tea
story and photos by Kelly Magyarics
Perched on the iconic hotel’s 25th floor, with unparalleled views of Victoria Harbour and the Hong Kong skyline, the Mandarin Oriental’s chic and sexy M Bar stocks small batch and rare spirits, handcrafted infusions, and elevated cocktails.
Behind the stick is head mixologist Slamet Haryadi, who won the 2018 Hernö Gin Cocktail Award for his Black Forest cocktail. During the competition, he was given several ingredients but had to forage for the rest. His winning entry mixes Hernö Navy Strength Gin with a black forest cordial, charcoal, and citrus. It’s bright yet brooding, served over stunning ice. The drink found a place on M Bar’s menu.
Haryadi, and the rest of the bar team, also created a selection of “Journey to the West” libations which reimage classic sips with Asian twists. Three drinks specifically are steeped in the region’s thirst for tea, and each uses it in very different ways. As a cocktail ingredient, tea is unparalleled in its ability to add layers of flavor, while its tannins offset sweetness, making for a perfectly balanced cocktail.
Their Darjeeling cocktail mixes Aran 10 Year Single Malt Scotch Whisky with lemon juice, Bengal spiced cordial, and a liqueur crafted from floral Darjeeling tea. “It’s a very simple twist of classic Whisky Sour yet has a story that relates to the concept of our menu,” Haryadi says.
Also on the list is the Hong Kong Legend, made with Absolut Elyx Vodka, Herno Old Tom Gin, Gu Yue Long Shan Hua Diao 10 Years Rice Wine, lychee, lemon juice, and a cordial made from Pu-erh tea—a fermented tea from Yunnan province in China that’s woody and earthy in flavor.
Lastly, Sarawak Tea Punch (recipe below) is a clarified milk punch that mixes Rebel Yell Small Batch Rye Whiskey, Arrack, Italicus Bergamot Liqueur, Teh Tarik, pineapple, and teapot bitters (handcrafted biters made with black tea, yerba mate, hazelnut, citrus peel, vanilla, and ginger root) topped off with jackfruit-infused foam.
Haryadi has worked with tea in other liquid creations, occasionally using the sous-vide method to extract more flavor. But a basic infusion is often the best bet. “I recommend incorporating the tea with spirits or liquors or making a tincture using high proof neutral
spirits.” And what’s particularly noteworthy and relevant in this age of zero-waste cocktails, tea is one of those ingredients that keeps on giving. “After using the tea in the infusion, you can what is leftover to finish your garnish, which is fascinating and sustainable in a sense.”
Sarawak Tea Punch
Recipe courtesy of M Bar at the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong
(Makes 30 servings; can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks)
3 cups Rebel Yell Small Batch Rye
1½ cups Plantation Original Dark Rum
1½ cups Batavia Arrack
7 oz. Italicus Bergamot Liqueur
7 oz. Dr. Adam Elmegirab’s Teapot Bitters (available on amazon.com)
7 oz. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. Pu-erh tea
1 cup caster sugar
8 lemon peels
20 coriander seeds
4 bay leaves
3 cinnamon sticks
3 star anise pods
5 dried tamarind pods
3 cups boiling water
1 whole pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut in chunks
4¼ cups cream
Jackfruit tea foam for garnish (or substitute whipped cream)
Grind/crack the tea, sugar, lemon peels, coriander seeds, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, star anise, and tamarind pods; add boiling water and stir well. Add the alcoholic ingredients and the pineapple, then stir well and let set overnight. Strain out solids into a large container and set aside. Bring the milk and cream to a boil, then add to the punch base followed by the lemon juice. Stir well, cover with cling film, and store in the refrigerator for 48 hours, during which the milk and cream will separate at the bottom. Double-strain with cheesecloth or a coffee strainer to another container (ideally using a siphon) and store in the refrigerator.
For the jackfruit tea foam:
Add 9 oz. chopped jackfruit to 4¼ cups brewed Pu-erh tea. Blend the mixture before double-straining it and storing in the refrigerator until it’s ready to use. Add the jackfruit tea to a large bowl and add 1 tsp. of lecithin. Hand-blend vigorously until the foam solidifies.
Kelly Magyarics, DWS, is a wine, spirits and travel writer in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website, www.kellymagyarics.comor on Twitter and Instagram @kmagyarics.