Beefeater 24: G & Tea Cocktails

"It was one of those times when you sit up at 5am, and think, 'I've got it!'" recalls Desmond Payne. It was the moment when the master distiller realised which botanicals he would use to differentiate Beefeater 24 - the first gin in his 40-year career to be wholly his own creation - from the rest of the booming gin market.

"It was a real lightbulb moment when I realised gin and tea were compatible flavours. It hadn't been done before, and when we did some checking, we discovered that Beefeater founder James Burrough's father was a tea merchant, so it all fitted together nicely."

Desmond squirreled himself away in his lab at the Beefeater distillery in Kennington, central London, surrounding himself with as many teas as he could, to find the most compatible flavours. Over 18 months, amid a process of trial and error, he refined his tea choice as he began to understand the nuances and varying tannic levels within black, white and green teas; Assam, Darjeeling and Earl Greys; jasmine, sencha, matcha teas and more.

"I had to create a new balance," says Desmond. "The ones I thought of using first were black teas, but they had too much tannin and made the gin bitter - that's a characteristic in gin that belongs to juniper. I realised quite early on that Chinese green teas were lighter in tannins and had better aromatic deliverance."

But it wasn't until after a blind tasting both sides of the Atlantic of his new gin, then named Beefeater Big Ben, that it was decided that a bigger tea 'hit' was required and Japanese Sencha tea was added to the mix: Beefeater 24 was born.

Fast forward three years and Beefeater 24 and tea pairings are providing the foundation for a new generation of cocktails. Bartenders are opening their eyes to a vast array of flavours and schooling themselves in the different varietals, provenance, heritage, production techniques and extraction methods - just as they would with any spirit or liqueur - in order to learn how they can complement the nuances of the gin in mixed drinks.

Talking the same language

Following a similar learning curve to Desmond, a group of eight bartenders won their place at the international final of a gin and tea cocktail competition in November 2011, heading to the Kennington distillery for a marathon day's cocktail trial, informed by a series of tea seminars, and facing three judges: Desmond Payne himself, tea expert Jane Pettigrew and London bar consultant Dre Masso.

* Sammy Sale, from Bar Lounge in Chester, and Marcis Dzelzainis, from 69 Colebrooke Row in London, represented the UK contingent;
* Antonio Parlapiano, from Jerry Thomas's Speakeasy in Rome and Tommaso Colonna, from Gran Caffe Gambrinus in Bari, made up the Italian side;
* Thanasis Kouziokas, from Grooove bar, in Volos and Xavier Masailidis, from Pere Ubu bar in Athens, represented Greece;
* Joshua Prout, from Boehmer bar, Toronto, and Jacob Sweetapple, from Chambar in Vancouver, came from Canada.

All had won national competitions involving hundreds of entrants staged by brand ambassador Tim Stones. The competition complements wider brand activity for Beefeater 24 which has been promoting tea-based cocktails for some time.

They began the day first by sitting a blind nosing of distilled botanical spirits, and then had a masterclass in tea with Jane Pettigrew. She demonstrated eight different teas and highlighted the similarities between tea and the world of bartending. With references to terroire and seasonality, and explaining how different harvesting methods and processes affect the flavour and intensity of each tea, it was quickly apparent she was talking the same language as bartenders, and that a shared terminology and vocabulary exists between tea and spirits and wine production. The intricacies and nuance in oxidation and extraction (brewing) was also familiar ground to anyone used to the language of distillation.

Round One: Flavour Matching

Each bartender was randomly assigned one of the eight teas with which to demonstrate their cocktail prowess.

Tommaso Colonna, Italy

Pouchong from Taiwan - a partially oxidized green tea brewed for 3-4 minutes at 80°C. It produces a sweet, gently herbal tea with toasted biscuits, honey and floral notes

Next Tea
: Highball
Garnish: Thyme sprig, orange zest, basil leaves, vanilla pod and raspberry
Method: Muddle peel with sugar separately, then add to thyme and bitters mix, muddle again. Add other ingredients, then shake with ice. Strain over cubed ice, top with crushed ice.
30ml Beefeater 24 gin
2 dashes Peychaud's bitters
40ml Pomegranate juice
30ml Pouchong Tea
20ml Simple syrup
1 pinch Thyme
Lemon zest and sugar

Thanasis Kouziokas, Greece

Long Jing Chinese tea - a green tea that's hand-processed to prevent oxidization into a black tea, brewed for 3 minutes at 65°C and yielding notes of chestnut, hazelnut, grassy notes and spring vegetables including broccoli, asparagus and pea pods

Long Rose
: Coupe
Garnish: Rosemary sprig
Method: Shake all ingredients with ice, then double strain into chilled glass.
50ml Beefeater 24 gin
35ml Rosemary and lavender Long Jing tea
15ml Mandarin juice

Joshua Prout, Canada

Yellow Gold Oolong tea - a black, partially oxidised Chinese tea brewed for 2-3 minutes to 90°C which produces a darker but still delicate 'liquor', with floral spring flowers, hyacinth and lily of the valley notes, with a buttery, milky character

Tea Blossom
: Old fashioned
Garnish: Grapefruit zest, basil leaf
Method: Rip basil, add all other ingredients, then shake with ice and strain over cubed ice.
45ml Beefeater 24 gin
25ml Yellow Gold Oolong tea
1.5ml Elderberry and basil cordial
1.5ml Grapefruit juice
2 Basil leaves

Sammy Sale, UK

Earl Grey Gunpowder - looking like little pellets of lead shot, this green tea flavoured with bergamot has a bold citrus character with grassy hay notes, brewed for 2-3 minutes at 80°C.

24th Earl of Grey
: Teacup
Garnish: Grated orange zest and vanilla sprinkles on top, grated lime zest on spoon on the side
Method: Squeeze lemon zest and rub Boston glass. Shake all with ice and double strain into teacup.
50ml Beefeater 24 gin
50ml Earl Grey Gunpowder tea
25ml Sweetened vanilla cream
5ml Simple syrup
Lemon zest

Xavier Misailidis, Greece

Honey Orchid Oolong - a partially oxidized oolong tea from China, brewed for 2-3 minutes at 90°C and named because of its flavour profile: on the nose, toast, flowers and stoned and dried fruits and citrus notes, with woody, orris root and caramelised notes and a syrupy consistency

Spiced Orchid
: Coupe
Garnish: Vanilla and orange peel
Method: Cold infuse gin with tea. Muddle the apricot with the vanilla, add all ingredients to shaker, shake with ice and strain into chilled coupe.
30ml Beefeater 24 gin
30ml Beefeater 24 gin infused with two teaspoons of Honey Orchid tea
45ml Spiced syrup and Honey Orchid tea (30ml tea and 15ml syrup, spiced with cinnamon, clove and nutmeg)
1 Dried apricot
1 Vanilla stick
2 dashes Peach Bitters

Jacob Sweetapple, Canada

English Afternoon Tea - a blend of teas, all oxidized, combining light and delicate Darjeeling, the sweetness of Assam (India) and the briskness and brightness of Ceylon (Sri Lanka), brewed at nearly 100°C for 2-3 minutes.

The GTC (Gin Tea Cocktail)
: Coupe
Garnish: Lemon zest discarded
Method: Stirred over ice then single strained into a chilled coupe
60ml Beefeater 24 infusion (300ml gin infused with 20g English Afternoon tea - hot bath infused)
25ml Homemade lemon and juniper syrup (seven lemons' worth of lemon peel and 20g lightly crushed juniper berries - using a ratio of 300ml water to cup of sugar)
2 dashes Angostura Orange Bitters

Antonio Parlapiano, Italy

Yunnan Imperial tea - from China's south westerly region, bordering with Vietnam, Assam and Burma, with a coppery liquid and sweet aromas of warm wood and mushroom.

24 Yunnan Delight
: Coupe
Garnish: Lemon zest, tea buds, and lemongrass, dried orange, dried strawberry, hibiscus mix on the side, served on a wooden board.
Method: Dissolve marmalade in syrup and tea, add other ingredients, then shake with ice. Double strain into chilled glass.
50ml Beefeater 24 gin
75ml Yunnan Imperial tea
25ml Lemon juice
15ml Uzu juice
10ml Simple syrup
3 barspoons Rhubarb and ginger marmalade

Marcis Dzelzainis, UK

Tippy Assam - a black Assam tea that produces a darker and stronger liquor after brewing for 3-4 minutes at nearly boiling point, with raisin notes and a more tannic character

Tippy 24
: Coupe
Garnish: Grapefruit twist (discarded)
Method: Rapid infuse tea and gin using nitrous oxide in a siphon. Shake all ingredients with ice then strain into a chilled coupe.
50ml Beefeter 24 gin infused with Tippy Assam tea (3g tea to 350ml gin)
25ml Salted Uzu and lemon juice (1:5)
25ml Plum wine
15ml Elderflower cordial

"Britain is a nation of tea drinkers but we are only now waking up to the fact that we don't know that much about it," says Jane Pettigrew. "Tea has a 5,000-year history but is enjoying being back at the heart of the public consciousness: there's a real fashion for tea and a thirst for education.

"Tea is versatile and we already know it works really well in alcohol - tea has long been cold-infused in white port - but we're only now untapping the flavour potential with gin."

But it's not just the flavours in tea that makes it ripe for a cocktail explosion - it's the ceremonial way that it is served that creates perfect theatre in a bar setting. In order to understand the traditions and rituals that accompany serving and drinking tea, the eight finalists were treated to an elaborate display of Chinese and Japanese tea ceremonies - chiming with the Chinese green tea and Japanese Sencha tea in Beefeater 24.

The Gong Fu Chinese tea ceremony developed from the 18th century and involves careful theatrical preparation, symbolic hand washing, hand placement, careful, choreographed pouring and swirling while tea goes through several steepings in order to extract the correct flavour. Even clearing up after drinking is ritualistic.

The Japanese tea tradition emanates from as early as the 12th century, and can be conducted over several hours. It acts almost as a form of meditation, during which drinkers are supposed to shed all their worries about the outside world. Conducted on the floor, drinkers watch as powdered tea is whisked into hot water. It is characterised by silence, and the methodical cleaning and polishing of equipment.

Round Two: A modern tea ceremony

Following the two traditional tea ceremony demonstrations came the challenge to create a ritualistic serve to accompany a Beefeater 24 and tea cocktail.

Tommaso Colonna, Italy

"I served Yellow Gold Oolong tea and jasmine tea infused with sage leaves, served with a liquorice stick and homemade almond petit fours, with matcha tea granita on the side."
Next Tea No. 1
: Martini
Garnish: Rim of powdered Matcha tea and sugar. Lime zest twist and melissa leaves (honey leaves).
Method: Crush pimento stone with muddler, add other ingredients, then decant to teapot filled with ice and throw three or four times.
40ml Beefeater 24 gin
10ml Amaretto
2 dashes Peychaud's Bitters
2.5ml Hibiscus honey

Thanasis Kouziokas, Greece

: Coupe
Garnish: Lemongrass with black raisins
Method: Serve homemade tea mix made with lemongrass, coriander, black raisins, red pepper. Muddle ginger, add other ingredients, shake with ice, then double strain into chilled glass.
50ml Beefeater 24 gin
35ml Rooibus tea
20ml Honey water
15ml Lime juice
Slice fresh root ginger

Joshua Prout, Canada

"I made a teabag containing some of the botanicals in Beefeater 24, including Chinese green tea and Japanese sencha tea, to make a special homemade blend of tea."
Gin Chado
: Old Fashioned
Garnish: Bamboo stick
Method: Steep teabag in ice water with pear syrup. Build in glass over cubed ice.
60ml Beefeater 24 gin
60ml Homemade tonic (cinchona bark, coriander, citric acid, grapefruit and lemon peel, bitters, liquorice root)
60ml Homemade tea blend (coriander, juniper, Chinese green tea and Japanese sencha tea and liquorice root) with Japanese pear syrup

Sammy Sale, UK

"I wrote my own haiku to accompany the cocktail to create a Japanese-influenced ceremony and complemented other Japanese ingredients with Beefeater 24."
Green Geisha
: Coupe
Garnish: Rose buds
Method: Dry shake all ingredients, then shake again with ice and double strain into chilled glass.
40ml Beefeater 24 gin
20ml Homemade Green tea syrup, containing powdered Matcha tea and Japanese Sencha tea
20ml Shochu infused with wild rose buds
10ml Lemon juice
20ml Egg white

Xavier Misailidis, Greece

Ginseng Marmalade Cocktail
: Jam jar
Garnish: None
Method: Shake all with ice, then strain into jam jar
60ml Beefeater 24 gin
30ml Crani (native Greek) berry liqueur
30ml Lemon juice
2 tablespoons Jasmine tea
1 barspoon Orange marmalade
1 dash Plum bitters

Jacob Sweetapple, Canada

"I used traditional tea ceremonies as an influence, so we started with a cool towel to refresh the guest. I love the time taken to make the drink, so I decided to throw this twist on a Negroni: it's a delicate way to mix drinks. I explained my inspiration for the drink on a card for the guest to read, and I served them miniature bottled versions of the cocktail to take away."
The Tea Keeper
: Coupe
Garnish: None
Method: Throw four or five times between tin and mixing glass, then pour into room temperature glasses.
60ml Beefeater 24 gin
7.5ml Homemade vermouth (made with Beefeater 24 gin, Kuchica tea, fruit influenced white tea)
7.5ml Campari (steeped with Lapsang Souchong tea)

Antonio Parlapiano, Italy

"This is a tribute to the Indian traditions for using tea in punches. Ahead of serving the cocktail I served a flower water containing dried orange, hibiscus flowers, dried strawberries and lemongrass. On the side, I served Stilton and Cheddar cheeses and sweet biscuits as well as Beefeater 24 dry botanicals and jasmine and Earl Grey tea for aroma."
Flower Tea Punch
: Tea cup
Garnish: Lemon peel and jasmine flowers.
Method: Mix with electric mixer, pour into teapot, pour in dry ice to chill and add a slight effervescence
50ml Beefeater 24 gin
50ml Homemade lavender syrup
75ml Jasmine tea
30ml Lemon juice
2 dashes Homemade wild rose bitters

Marcis Dzelzainis, UK

"I really wanted to make that sensory connection you make with sencha tea and the seaside. It can have quite a seaside, seaweed taste, so I'm transporting the drinker by creating a personal beach for them."
Camellia Cocktail
: Ceramic Japanese tea cups
Garnish: Grapefruit zest
Method: Stir all ingredients with ice then strain into cups
40ml Beefeater 24 gin
2.5ml Lemon sherbet (finely grated zest, sugar and lemon juice)
20ml Homemade kiwi cordial (made with kiwi fruit cooked sous vide and then separating in a centrifuge)
5 drops Sencha tincture (made from tea brewed twice)

Judge Dre Masso said bartenders' appreciation of tea has progressed from crudely matching black teas with brown spirits, to using more delicate teas with white spirits, with Beefeater 24 pointing the way forward to a more sophisticated style of cocktail.

"I first saw tea being used in mixed drinks during trips to China," he says. "There it was sweetened, bought off the shelf - they have whole aisles in supermarkets dedicated to bottled teas there. I remember being in a monster nightclub, looking down over the balcony and seeing everyone with jugs of tea and bottles of whisky.

"Outside of China, tea has popped up most frequently in competitions, but until recently, no one had put gin with it, which is surprising, given how commonplace it is - even in American culture iced tea is everywhere. We understand white milky tea and I love a cuppa with a digestive biscuit, but bartenders generally don't know much about tea, and I've never worked in a bar with a great range of teas.

"However, we should all be able to understand how tea complements gin easily enough: it can be floral and fruity, or herbaceous and earthy, with tannic dryness, and helps create mouthfeel. I've implemented Beefeater 24 and tea cocktails in a few bars - combining it with passion fruit ice tea, English breakfast tea and a splash of lemon juice on the rocks - and I've made a Mar-tea-nez before. And of course Audrey Saunders' Earl Grey Mar-Tea-Ni is a contemporary classic. I think we can all feel quite energized about what we've seen here today."

The judges concluded that Canada's Jacob Sweetapple was the winner, based on points accrued throughout the day. He is rewarded with an all-expenses-paid trip to Japan with Beefeater 24 brand ambassador Tim Stones to examine Japanese tea culture at first hand and to visit some of the country's most famous bars, in Tokyo and beyond.

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