Sunday, October 25, 2009

Please come back to Boston ... for the vodka

Tea may be my favorite beverage, but I'm no tea-totaler. I've written before about my vodka infusions, and this weekend I finally got a hold of someone else's. Three products, in fact ...

The Absolut vodka makers have started a line of city-specific flavors and recently unveiled the latest (after Los Angeles and New Orleans): Absolut Boston. What did they decide Boston tasted like? Black tea and elderflower. A shop in Chicago finally got a few bottles, so I had a taste. The verdict: ... tea? I can taste no tea in this at all. The elderflower, however ... wow. Straight out of the freezer (the only way to drink vodka, when it's the consistency of 10W-40) in two small cordials, the floral notes were mighty, and lovely. Smells and flavors of heavy rose, of menthol, of spearmint, with a slight blueberry finish. These didn't mellow much with time and warmth, and I never tasted anything resembling tea. I think, however, that this would make one of the best Cape Cods in cocktail history. (They have recipes and more on Facebook.) What do you think they'll flavor Absolut Chicago with? Hot dogs? Pizza? Old Style beer?

My other purchase at the lush store: Zen Green Tea Liqueur. I'd seen this arrive on back bars but hadn't yet tried it. Run, do not walk to do so. This is a winning concoction on every level. It's beautiful, a pale emerald green. It smells like a fresh cup of matcha (from which it is allegedly flavored). The flavor is fantastic — real tea notes, a slight astringency underneath a perfectly balanced sweetness. I really expected this to be too sweet; it's perfect. It was delicious (1) on its own, in a glass, (2) mixed with the Absolut Boston, to add the Green Monster to a Zentini, and (3) mixed with vanilla ice cream, which I did on a whim and immediately wished I had a supply of insulin so I could extend the experience all night long.

Finally, I made my own chai liquer. Same ol' vodka infusion method using simple syrup. When the sugar was completely dissolved, I threw in two cinnamon sticks, dashes of ginger, allspice, nutmeg, black pepper, three crumbled cardamom pods and a teaspoon of French vanilla extract. Then three scoops of black tea (Keemun in this case, figuring its natural spiciness would be perfect). Let it cool, strained it through a large sieve (to remove the tea leaves so they wouldn't get bitter), poured the rest of it into a half-empty (OK, half-full, you optimists) bottle of Lovejoy vodka. Let it sit in a cabinet for three days (could have gone much longer), then strain it twice with a fine cheesecloth. The result: a yummy cinnamon aperitif. The tea flavor gives it body, the syrup sweetness, and of all the spices it's the cinnamon that gets up and shimmies around your mouth. Now I just need to bake a few apples, and we've got one helluvan autumn dessert!

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