Owl's Brew, the first blended tea concentrate designed to pair seamlessly with a variety of spirits (including champagne, wine, and even beer!), has transformed the DIY cocktail movement. Jennie Ripps and Maria Littlefield, the founders of Owl's Brew, have now created the ultimate book for the at-home entertainer: Wise Cocktails.
Wise Cocktails offers fresh-brewed tips and tricks for mixing up your very own tea-based cocktails. Jam-packed with 100 recipes, this cocktail book includes drinks made with loose-leaf tea and Owl’s Brew signature tea blends, as well as recipes for tea sodas, smoothies, and even tea-infused snacks. Filled with helpful tips for getting the perfect brew, Wise Cocktails takes you on a journey through the history of tea cocktails and the health benefits of tea to become an expert mixologist.
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About the Author
Maria Littlefield is partner and COO at Owl's Brew and a partner at Brew Lab Tea.
Jennie and Maria were selected as "35 under 35 Food Entrepreneuers" by the Speciality Food Association. They reside in New York City, where Owl's Brew is headquartered.
Read an Excerpt
TOOLS, TEAS & TISANES
What You Need to Know
NOTES ON BEVERAGES
Brewing and infusing is how we make tea, but it doesn't just stop there. Gin contains a botanical bouquet--basically, an infusion of herbs and spices that almost always includes juniper in a spirit base. Bitters are made with gentian, citrus peels, and other ingredients. Grappa has a brandy (pomace) base made with grape skins, pulp, seeds, and stems, and is steeped with flavors ranging from orange to basil to fennel. Aquavit is a grain alcohol, often infused with caraway or dill. Even most sodas start off with brewing. You'll find brewed sarsaparilla in real root beer and ginger in old-fashioned ginger ale.
What we're tellin' ya is that one of the oldest--and most rewarding-- traditions in this world is comprised of dropping fruits, herbs, spices, and a little good ol' Camellia sinensis into liquor or water. What's even better? Depending on how they're infused, and for how long, you derive a bushelful of health benefits. While we don't recommend drinking grappa to get your daily dose of vitamin C, we're still big proponents of the simple fact that using real stuff (not flavors or essences) is the best way to drink wise. Sante! To your health!
Tea bags (black, white, green, rooibos)
Nonessential (But Very Helpful)
Large mason jar
Takeya iced tea makers
Agave nectar or raw sugar
Nonessential (But You'll Get a Lot Further)
Variety of glasses
THE HOME BAR
Beer: amber ale, wheat beer, stout beer, IPA
Wine (red and white)
The Fancy Home Bar
Combier Original or Cointreau
Creme de cassis
Vermouth (sweet and dry)
Knives: chef's and paring
TEA: THE PLANT
We know our stuff, we promise. Here's our mini science lesson to prove it.
Tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world, following water. "Tea" as we know it can really be broken up into two categories. First is actual tea (black, green, and white), which is derived from the Camellia sinensis plant. Everything else commonly known as "tea" is an herb or botanical (e.g., chamomile, peppermint, lemon verbena).
In the wild, a tea plant may grow to be tree-size, but cultivated tea plants are pruned to shrub size. Botanists identify two primary varieties of the tea plant: Camellia sinensis sinensis and Camellia sinensis assamica. The sinensis variety is able to withstand brief periods of frost and can be grown at high altitudes--its infusions tend to be more delicate. The assamica cannot withstand frost--its larger leaves produce a high yield and more robust infusions.
Tea is a veritable treasure trove of health benefits. It includes vitamins B2, C, and E; minerals such as potassium, manganese, folic acid, and calcium; and a wealth of antioxidants--in particular, tea is an excellent source of catechins, which protect against free radicals. Green tea has been very well studied, and its antioxidant level has been reported to be 100 times more effective than vitamins C and E in protecting our immune systems.
There are six kinds of teas made from the Camellia sinensis plant, although we only use the four most common teas for our delicious brews.
Black tea is the most processed of all teas, as it is fully oxidized. The fresh leaves are withered for a number of hours, and then rolled. After they have oxidized sufficiently, the leaves are heated and then dried in wood fires.
Typical preparation: Brew at 195° to 205°F for 3 to 5 minutes.
Famous Black Teas
Lapsang Souchong (this has a smoky flavor because of the pine wood fire used in the final drying process)
Green tea is minimally oxidized--the leaves are usually withered but not rolled. Following the brief oxidation period, the leaves are steamed or pan- fried to halt oxidation, and then rolled again.
Typical preparation: Brew at 170° to 180°F for 2 minutes.
Famous Green Teas
Hyson & Young Hyson
What Is Oxidation?
Oxidation is a chemical process that results in the browning of tea leaves. This process also affects the flavor and aroma of finished teas.
White tea is the least processed of all teas, and the leaves are not oxidized. White tea gets its color because only the top leaves and immature buds are picked.
Typical preparation: Brew at 170° to 180°F for 2 to 3 minutes.
Famous White Teas
White Peony or Pai Mu Tan
Oolong teas are processed similarly to black teas--they are withered and then rolled or shaken; however, oolongs are only oxidized for about half the time of typical black teas.
Typical preparation: Brew at 195° to 205°F for 3 to 6 minutes.
Famous Oolong Teas
Wuyi Rock Oolong from the Fujian Province
Ti Kuan Yin
The Power of the Leaf
LEAVES OF FRUIT, WHEN BREWED, OFTEN HAVE MEDICINAL benefits. For instance, when we brew a raspberry in tea, we are left with loads of vitamin C and polyphenols. When we add raspberry leaves into the mix, we get an even higher concentration of vitamin C as well as magnesium and B vitamins. Other leaves, such as strawberry and blueberry, have similar superpowers!
TISANES & HERBS
B otanicals, spices, and flowers are all tisanes. While not technically tea, these bitter, spicy, savory, and sweet add-ins contain a wealth of nutrients and offer unique flavors. We've highlighted the health benefits of some of our favorites, which you will find commonly used in our recipes, particularly in the DIY chapter (page 28).
BASIL is a botanical superstar, containing vitamins A, C, and K and even zinc, iron, and chlorophyll. It's also rich in antioxidants, and relieves stress.
BLACK PEPPER spurs digestion, aids in weight loss, and has antibacterial properties.
CARDAMOM is rich in vitamins A and C and contains iron and zinc. It is a natural anti-inflammatory and is traditionally used as an aphrodisiac.
CHAMOMILE promotes calm and provides full-body stress relief; it is also excellent for soothing an upset stomach.
CLOVES are rich in manganese, among other antioxidants, and stabilize the nervous system. On a detox? Cloves freshen the breath and help the body metabolize fat.
GINGER has natural anti-nausea properties and can help relieve an upset stomach; it is also a great immunity booster.
HIBISCUS FLOWERS are natural anti-inflammatories. Hibiscus tea is rich in antioxidants, is excellent for respiratory health, and is often used as a sleep aid.
JASMINE FLOWERS naturally remove toxins from the body. Additionally, they are believed to have aphrodisiac properties, and are natural stress reducers.
LAVENDER is a calming tisane that can help alleviate restlessness, insomnia, and anxiety. It also has properties that aid digestion.
LEMONGRASS has natural detoxifying properties and helps promote a healthy complexion.
PEELS (LEMON, ORANGE) Orange peel contains flavonoids and is rich in vitamin C--in fact, the peel is richer in vitamin C, vitamin A, and B complex vitamins than the fruit inside! Similarly, lemon peel contains at least five times more vitamins than lemon juice. These slightly bitter peels are excellent sources of fiber, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and beta-carotene.
PEPPERMINT is a natural, caffeine-free way to boost focus. It is also an anti-inflammatory and a particularly powerful stomach soother.
ROOIBOS is often called nature's sports drink. It contains natural electrolytes and minerals, including iron, potassium, and calcium. This African bush has anti-allergenic properties, is a natural anti- inflammatory, and is also rich in antioxidants.
ROSE PETALS are a natural source of vitamin C, can help ladies with pain at their time of the month, and are excellent for the complexion.
VANILLA promotes relaxation and reduces anxiety--and it's also a natural mood booster.
YERBA MATE is a loaded antioxidant powerhouse. It also promotes focus, aids in digestion, and, through its stimulant properties, enhances endurance.
APPROXIMATELY 80 PERCENT OF THE CAFFEINE IN TEA IS RELEASED during the first 30 seconds of steeping. Therefore, to remove most of the caffeine from any tea, simply follow this procedure:
1Pour boiling water over the tea leaves.
2Steep the leaves for 30 seconds.
3Pour out the water, saving the steeped leaves.
4Resteep the same leaves in fresh boiling water for the recommended steeping time.
. . . OR TRY THE COLD-BREW METHOD!
Cold-brewed tea has one-half to two-thirds of the caffeine content of hot- brewed tea.
HOW TO BREW TEAS
Note: This is NOT our guide to brewing tea for cocktails! You'll find those instructions detailed in each DIY recipe. These are just our tips and tricks for brewing a delicious cuppa.
HOW TO HOT-BREW TEA
1. Measurement: 6 to 8 ounces water per 1 teaspoon tea.
2. Heat the water so it's hot and steaming, but not boiling (or, if you have a way to heat it to the precise recommended temperatures detailed earlier in the chapter--go for it!).
Green or white tea hot brews for 2 to 3 minutes.
Black tea hot-brews for 5 minutes.
Tisanes hot-brew for at least 5 minutes.
If hot-brewing with a blend that includes green or white tea, allow those teas to dictate the timing.
4. If the tea leaves are loose, strain them out through a tea strainer; if they are in a sachet, bag, or ball, remove the sachet.
HOW TO COLD-BREW ICED TEA
1. Measurement: 6 to 8 ounces water per 2 teaspoons tea.
2. Use room-temperature water, not cold water, to brew.
3. Brew for about 10 minutes, agitating or stirring from time to time.
4. If you are working with loose leaves, strain them out through a tea strainer. Otherwise, remove the sachet/bag/ball.
5. Pat yourself on the back--one of the great benefits of cold brewing is that you minimize the chance of over-brewing!