For some reason, the misuse of the term "martini" really gets my hackles up. A martini has two or three ingredients: Gin, vermouth, and possibly a drop of orange bitters.
Back in the late 1990s, people realized that cocktails were fun to drink, and all of a sudden anything served originally as a shot was now a martini. Never mind that they were all colors of the rainbow and sickly sweet, people drank them up.
The gin martini has slowly recovered its good name. There's still a lot of people who order a vodka martini when what they really want is vodka straight up (and boy is that ever another column), but I digress.
While I firmly believe that a martini refers to exactly one combination of ingredients, I can't resist a good pun. And lately, I've been drinking gallons of iced tea at home. I can combine the two thanks to Libation Goddess Audrey Saunders, and her Earl Grey Mar-Tea-Ni.
There are some tea-infused spirits on the market. There are a couple of problems with these. They usually cost a significant premium over comparable non-infused spirits, they're a lower proof to save money, and they're almost always sweet tea flavored. What if I want to sweeten to my taste instead of someone else's?
Fixing these problems is darned easy; just make your own tea-flavored liquor at home. Put some loose leaf tea in the spirit of your choice; Saunders uses Tanqueray gin and Earl Grey tea. The two are quintessentially British, and the citrus notes in common mean they make a brilliant pair. Mix it around, let it sit for a few hours, and strain out the spent tea leaves. Once the infusion is prepared, it will keep nicely for several months in the refrigerator.
Once the main ingredient is ready, it's easy to make the rest of the drink, by adding lemon and sugar just like you might do with your tea. Saunders adds luscious extra body (and an attractive foamy head) by shaking in an egg white. You can leave it out if you're skittish about using raw eggs, but I'll tell ya, you're missing out.
Earl Grey Mar-Tea-Ni 3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice 2 ounces Earl Grey-infused gin (recipe follows) 1 ounce simple syrup 1 egg white
Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake hard 30 seconds without ice. Add ice cubes to fill, and shake hard until well chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
Earl Grey Infused Gin The same proportions can be used to make any variation of tea-infused hard liquor. Let me know in the comments if you experiment with this.
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1/4 cup loose leaf Earl Grey tea leaves 1 750-ml bottle London Dry gin
Combine in a large glass jar. Let steep 2 hours (or longer for a stronger infusion). Strain out tea leaves, and pour back into bottle. Store in refrigerator.