Most of us seem to associate a cup of tea with grandparents – a doily or two thrown in there with the shortbread biscuits, the teapot shining with all its glory in the middle of the table, waiting to be poured. Tea is the bomb. I have two wonderful grandmothers, one of them, Grandma, lives about an hour out from where I live in Melbourne. Every one of my weekly visits starts with a cup of tea in the living room – hers very weak with a splash of cold water (I know. But she has many other fabulous assets), mine with milk, sometimes with or without sugar, depending on the biscuit situation. The two of us sip and exchange our news of that past week, before deciding what else we have in mind for the next few hours. I love my Grandma days.
My memory of tea with Omi reaches back a bunch of years, back to Switzerland, to when I was small, but still the tallest of my class, with white-blonde hair and an obsession with dogs. Every once in a while I’d stay the weekend at my grandparents’ place, at their wooden chalet with the red geraniums, nestled at the foot of a forest. Giesenstein is basically a hill with a few farms sprinkled about, an only child’s paradise, where you could pick cherries during your afternoon walks with Omi and Opa in the summer, play with the tadpoles in the pond in their front yard, or watch TV. I may have mentioned before that I was a TV-less child growing up, which was great I might add, but which also made me appreciate TV and its many wondrous animal documentaries all the more. I truly loved breakfast at their place. Omi would already be awake down in the kitchen, singing to herself, setting the table for me. I’d pad down the stairs and sit down in my chair, where I’d select which type of jam I wanted on my slice of freshly buttered bread. In her sweet Austrian accent Omi would then always ask me how I would like my tea, with milk or with lemon, and I’d almost always request lemon. You know why? Because when you poured the lemon juice into the tea, it would change from black to golden caramel. Magic. And which little girl doesn’t like magic? A few lumps of sugar and then we were in business.
This cocktail recipe is inspired by Omi’s breakfast tea. It’s deliciously fresh and a slight bit posh. Earl grey takes the place of black tea and is paired with dash of lemon, accompanied by vanilla vodka and gin, because earl grey and gin are good friends, and a squeeze of orange rind to complement that seductive bergamot flavour.
The Earl of Grey
For the earl grey syrup:
1 tsp earl grey leaves
½ cup / 125ml boiling water
½ cup / 220g white sugar
30 ml earl grey syrup
30 ml fresh lemon juice
30 ml vanilla vodka
30 ml gin
a thin sliver of orange peel
Get a tea sieve or whatever handy contraption you own, place the tealeaves inside. You could use a teabag here of course, but if you’re going to all this trouble, you might as well go the whole way. Plus tea from tealeaves is a million times better. If you haven’t already, it’s time you converted, trust me. Place the sieve into a small cup, and add the boiling water. Let it sit for about 3 minutes. Remove the sieve and pour the tea into a small saucepan. Add the sugar and bring to the boil, letting it simmer until thickened slightly. Transfer to a jar and let it cool.
Once you’re ready to cocktail, combine the earl grey syrup, lemon juice, vodka, gin, and a few cubes of ice in a cocktail shaker or a jar and give it a good shake. Find your prettiest teacup, fill it up with ice cubes and pour over your Earl of Grey. To finish off, squeeze the orange rind over the top of the drink before dropping it in and giving it a little swirl.