How to Make Tea Infused Gin Drink – Robb Report

In a world where we can see John Cena being both fast and furious as he N2O rockets his Mustang V8 over a cliff and gets caught in the air by a “magnetic plane”, should- we even bother with the chase scenes in Bullit or The French Connection? If this year Jurassic World: Dominion we can watch photo-realistic velociraptors on a high-speed chase across the rooftops of Rome, is there any point in watching the tension build in this dark Jurassic Park prep kitchen?

At the risk of sounding grumpy, I suggest the answer is yes. I’m not a luddite – I’m not here looking for a walkman or pagers or anything like that – I just believe that when it comes to art and taste, it’s worth, time in time, to look back.

The Earl Gray MarTEAni is such an occasion. It was invented around 2003 by Audrey Saunders, one of the leading figures in the cocktail renaissance, and became a house classic at her legendary bar, the Pegu Club, in New York. Now, when I say “early” and “legendary,” it’s tempting to think this drink is on the other side of relevance, and in a way, you’d be right. The name alone is dated – changing the grammar to reinforce the pun kinda feels like your uncle is explaining why the joke he made is funny. In the end, it’s just a gin sour with an infusion of tea. What’s so special about that?

Some bartenders are liquid poets, fumbling through a glass. Saunders, on the contrary, was an infamous architect and perfectionist. “She will have a drink eight hundred times before stopping there”, remembers Julie Reiner, in the excellent story by Robert Simonson A good drink, “and I’m going to do it fifteen times before I say, I think that’s good enough.”

In her Earl Gray MarTEAni, she wanted a tea infusion, but didn’t like the result. “The tannins in tea alone can build up in your palate and wear it down,” she told the New York Times in 2010, “which is one of the reasons many people drink tea with milk and lemon”. The solution, she found, lay right there in the history of drinks like Whiskey Sour. “The egg white in this drink achieves the same feat,” she said.

It’s not easy to ignore what we all owe Saunders. No one, for example, was making tea infusions in the early 2000s. And that almost no one was shaking cocktails with raw eggs. I’ve mentioned in this space before, in the case of Gold Rush and Whiskey Sour, proteins (egg whites here) bind to tannins, absorbing their astringency and making the cocktail silky smooth. And the reason I know all this is because Audrey Saunders got it.

So why, in a world where you can get a balanced egg white cocktail at the airport, where bartenders are constantly coming up with innovative techniques, fashions and flavors, why make the Earl Gray MarTEAni? Because it’s easy and remarkably delicious, that’s why. The complexity of the tea plays perfectly with the strengths of the gin without canceling them out, the bittersweet treatment makes it stand out and the egg white smoothes it, ensuring no hair is displaced. That he doesn’t use stinging nettles or that he doesn’t use gin made from recycled popcorn isn’t the issue. The thing is, a good drink then is a good drink now, and worth revisiting.

Pegu Club closed in May 2020, but had already begun to be overshadowed in the press by the shiny and the new. Of course, it’s inevitable too, but it’s a shame. “Yes, the menu itself and the atmosphere seems a bit frozen in time now,” writes Simonson for Grub Streeton the bar’s 10th anniversary in 2015, “But, oh, it was a great time.”

Earl Gray MarTEAni

  • 2oz. Earl Gray infused gin
  • 0.75oz. Lemon juice
  • 0.75oz. simple syrup
  • 1 egg white

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake “dry” without ice for five to seven seconds to whiten the egg. Add ice and shake vigorously for 10-12 seconds. Strain into a cocktail or coupe or, yes, a martini glass, and garnish with a lemon twist.

Notes on ingredients

Beefeater London Dry Gin

Beefeater

Recipe: Many publications have written about this drink and most accurately reported Saunders’ original recipe. It is with the greatest respect that I refine it, slightly. His has less gin, more simple syrup, and a sugar rim, and those three choices make the drink sweeter. In his defense, it was a time when people ordered a shot of vodka called “Woo-Woo”, so the audience was a little different. My recipe, above, is the industry standard for modern palates.

Tea: Earl Gray is a black tea blended or infused with bergamot. The citrus of bergamot is particularly lovely here, but any black tea would work, or honestly any tea. I made it with green tea, with chai, chamomile, it’s great.

To infuse: for a whole bottle, mix 4 tablespoons of loose leaf tea (or 3-4 bags) with a 750ml bottle of gin and let stand at room temperature for one to two hours. Taste an hour to see if it’s where you want it.

For a single or double serving, you can steep 3 or 5 ounces in about 10 or 15 minutes, respectively, with just one tea bag. You’ll need two ounces of gin for each cocktail, and even if you squeeze it, the tea bag will fly about half an ounce, so plan accordingly.

Gin: I hate to be a broken record here – I promise they don’t pay me a dime – but then again, Beefeater steals the show. For sour-style shakes, from the Gimlet to the French 75, Beefeater outperforms. It might just be my palate, but I don’t think so. Saunder’s, for its part, used Tanqueray, which is another great gin but seems a bit boozy (although she used a different recipe, more on that below). I tried six infused gins side by side and they were all good, so it’s really not that important, but if you’re in the store right now, get Beefeater.

Simple syrup: So simple you could train a hamster to do it: equal parts sugar and water, and stir until the sugar is dissolved (takes about five minutes for room temperature water and about 45 seconds for hot water.Keeps one month in the refrigerator.

Egg white: Pegu Club was so groundbreaking that they got into trouble with the city’s health department, which didn’t know what to do with an egg white in a cocktail. Suppose you read the warning at the bottom of a menu: “Eating raw or undercooked meats, poultry, seafood, shellfish or eggs may increase your risk of foodborne illness, especially if you have certain medical conditions.” It should be noted that they weren’t even accused of making anyone sick, just that it could have been possible. For what it’s worth, I’ve never even heard of it. A fuller discussion of the safety of egg whites in cocktails is here.