Tea Cocktails at the DeCordova

On the rooftop of the DeCordova Museum. What a view!

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of leading a seminar at the DeCordova Museum on the evolution of the modern Tea Cocktail.  Before the event began, we had a chance to relax, chat and taste some teas on the beautiful roof-top deck of the museum. What a beautiful place to enjoy a cup of tea!  We sipped on a variety of L’Espalier signature blend teas as well as tasting one of the teas that we would later be enjoying blended into a Colonial style tea punch.  As much as we were all looking forward to tasting tea cocktails, it was hard to leave that beautiful open space to settle into a more traditional lecture space!


However, with the promise of Tea Cocktails, I headed on down into the museum to help the bartender set up for the event.  Arguably, the first tea cocktails could be considered the Hot Toddies of Scotland.  They were originally created to make the taste of Scotch more palatable to women.  Although tea in it’s early days was a medicinal, these early Hot Toddies were not the cold remedies of your grandmother!  Far away in the British East Indies, Punch or Paantsch was being created by the  British East Indies sailors and ‘tea men’.  Now this punch was a far cry from the day-glow overly sweet versions that many of us remember from our college days.  The punch of our forebears was a complex and well-balanced drink.  The name derives from the Hindi word for five, and refers to the five elements of a true Punch.

  • Spirit.  In Colonial New England due to the local rums that were available, this was often rum, but historically, many different spirits were used.  The most revered being Batavia Arrack from the East Indies (now Indonesia)
  • Sour. The preferred sour initially, especially with the sailors at sea was lime.
    n England, lemon and orange were preferred.  In colonial New England, where citrus could be hard to come by, we often used vinegar or verjus as well.
  • Sweet.  Sugar in the colonies was quite different from our modern refined white sugar.  It was a coarse raw sugar in block form which was ideal for using to scrape the
  •  zest off of any citrus that they were fortunate enough to have!
  • Water
  • Spice.  Spice was often interpreted as tea, but the tea could be used instead of the water component as well.  In fact, although these are two of the critical five, more often than not they could be added as one in the form of hot tea.  Another traditional spice that was often added was freshly ground nutmeg.

For those of you who are curious about what a traditional colonial Tea Punch tastes like, or would like to learn more about the teas of the colonies, I want to draw your attention to the December Tea Tasting.  As you probably know, we offer a guided tea tasting on a particular theme each month.  In December our theme does not represent a particular tea growing region, but it is focused on the December 16th Boston Tea Party.  We will be tasting the teas that went into the harbor on that fateful day! 

Join us on Sunday December 16th at 2:00 for our Sunday Tea Tasting focused on the Boston Tea Party.


But, back to the DeCordova.  We went on to taste and talk about Tea Sangrias which are a lighter, more modern version of a Tea Punch, and then modern tea cocktails.  The cocktail that we enjoyed was the Southern Earl Grey, a champagne Tea Cocktail currently on the menu at L’Espalier.


The Southern Earl Grey, a champagne Tea Cocktail. Photo by Julian Landa

Here is the recipe for the Southern Earl Grey:


1/2 ounce Earl Grey infused Bourbon
1/2 ounce Grand Marnier
1 teaspoon Green tea and ginger syrup
dash of Orange Bitters

Add first four ingredients to a champagne flute. Fill with Prosecco or your favorite
champagne. Optionally garnish with a curl of orange zest.

Infused Bourbon

1 liter Makers Mark Bourbon
1/4 cup of Earl Grey tea leaves

Place 1 liter of vodka in non-reactive container. Add tea leaves, taste periodically
until desired strength is achieved. Probably around 2 hours. Strain multiple
times through cheesecloth or coffee filters until completely clear. Store at room
temperature or chilled.

Oolong Tea and Ginger Simple Syrup

2 cups white sugar
2 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh ginger
1 wedge lemon or orange
3 tablespoons Oolong tea leaves

Place sugar and water into a saucepan. Stir sugar up from the bottom, squeeze in
citrus and add ginger. Place over medium-high flame and bring to a boil. Turn
down to low and let simmer until a clear thick syrup is formed, about 10 minutes.
Remove from heat, add tea leaves, stir well and let sit until cool. May be left
overnight at this stage. Strain.


A visit to Bully Boy Distillery

Members of the L’Espalier team recently enjoyed a visit to Bully Boy Distillery, owned and operated by brothers Will and Dave Willis.

Photos by Julian Landa

New England has a long history of artisan rum distilleries stemming back to colonial times and the triangular trade routes. By 1770, New Englanders were exporting 5 million gallons of rum, the most profitable and prolific export item. It has been estimated that there were over 150 rum distilleries in colonial New England. During prohibition, the last of these distilleries closed down, but the Willis family farmhouse basement was home to a significant collection of local artisan spirits.


Some 70 years later, this hidden vault was rediscovered on the farm, inspiring in the brothers the idea for a new distillery to carry on Boston’s tradition of small-batch distilling. Their childhood home and fourth-generation working family farm now also supplies much of the grain used in their products. A small batch distillery which produces noteworthy (and award winning) spirits and also grows its own organic grain speaks strongly to L’Espalier’s core beliefs in artisanal and New England ingredients, so a visit was destined to occur.


Bully Boy white rum, which exhibits wonderful caramel and butterscotch notes, is made from Blackstrap molasses from New Orleans rather than the Caribbean molasses used by its colonial predecessors. It is a smoother and more complex product than the rums of our forefathers, but the artisan and entrepreneurial spirit is the same.

For their upcoming aged rum, they are aging in 80% old bourbon barrels and 20% old wine barrels, and they are currently slow-aging their first batches of aged whiskey (a bourbon and rye blend) in new American oak barrels. Among many aspects of this small batch distillery, it was fascinating for us to experience firsthand the talent, care and passion of the Willis brothers. An informative, enjoyable as well as delicious trip.


Autumn in the Park
This drink is perfect as summer comes to a close or as you head into the fall and the days begin to cool off. Darjeeling Tea plays beautifully with the natural caramel and vanilla tones of the Bully Boy white rum. If you have it available, a second Flush Darjeeling is ideal, but you will find that any good quality Darjeeling will give you memorable results.

1 1/2 ounces Darjeeling infused Rum
1/2 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice
1/4 ounce Falernum (I use Trader Tiki’s brand)
1 1/2 ounces apple cider
1/2 ounce ginger oolong simple syrup

Shake all ingredients with ice for 10 to 15 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Optionally garnish with a floated dried apple ring or a slice of candied ginger on the rim.

Darjeeling Infused Rum

1 liter Rum
3 tablespoons Darjeeling tea leaves, preferably a second flush

Place 1 liter of gin in non-reactive container. Add tea leaves. Taste periodically until desired strength is achieved. Probably around 2 hours. Strain multiple times through cheesecloth or coffee filters until no visible tea remains. Store at room temperature or chilled.

Oolong Tea and Ginger Simple Syrup

2 cups white sugar
2 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup chopped fresh sliced ginger
1 wedge lime
1 tablespoon Oolong tea leaves, preferably a smoky high oxidation Oolong

Place sugar and water into a saucepan. Stir sugar up from the bottom, squeeze in lime and add ginger. Place over medium-high flame and bring to a boil. Turn down to low and let simmer until a clear syrup is formed, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, add tea leaves, stir and let sit until cool. May be left overnight at this stage. Strain well. Will keep for weeks if stored covered and refrigerated.


How to make breakfast for dessert

Pastry Chef Jiho Kim whipped up this dessert, which he calls “Breakfast”, a play on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich,  at Boston Magazine‘s Top Desserts event last week. Jiho’s dish includes a butter brioche cake, gianduja cremeaux (similar to Nutella), Concord grape jelly, bacon powder, milk foam, and milk sorbet (not pictured).

Here are all of the recipes for the components on the dish, should you dare try this at home!

Gianduja Cremeaux
Yield: 22 Cylinders

560g Gianduja
651g Heavy Cream
420g Water
42g Glucose
2.1g Agar (a gelling agent, derived from seaweed)
2.1g Iota (a gelling agent, derived from seaweed)
.53g Locust Bean Gum (a gelling agent, derived from the seeds of the carob tree)
2.1g Sea Salt

Bring cream to a boil with the gianduja and glucose. Hand blend all the dry ingredients into the water. Bring to a boil for 2 min, transfer to a vita prep (or blender) and blend for 2 min. Strain into ganache mix, whisk together and pour into cylinder molds.

Milk Meringue
Yield: 2.5 Dehydrator Trays

1000g Skim Milk
500g Mint Milk
2.5g Iota
1.25g Guar Gum
150g Sugar
1 tsp Pregel Mint Extract

Bring milk to a boil and transfer to a Vita Prep (or blender). Add iota, guar, and sugar, blend well for 3 minutes. Strain and whip until stiff peak. Pipe into small “kisses” and dehydrate.

Concord Grape Fluid Gel
Yield: ~ 1qt

600g Concord Grape Puree
400g Water
10g Low Gellan (gelling agent)
3.4g Sodium Citrate
200g Sugar
1g Xanthan Gum
4g Malic Acid

Boil puree with water. Transfer to Vita Prep (or blender). Blend in remaining ingredients in order. Blend well. Set on ice, blend again, and pass through a chinoise for smoothness.

Milk Sorbet
Yield: 1 gal

1800g Whole Milk
1200g Light Cream
120g Glucose Powder
4g Locust Bean Gum
4g Iota
4g Salt
200g Dehydrated Milk Solids
560g Sugar

Whisk the chemicals into the wet ingredients. Bring to a rolling boil, whisking constantly. Remove from heat and hand blend for 2 minutes. Then hand blend in glucose powder, milk solida, and sugar. Set on ice. Blend in Vita Prep (or blender) and pass through a  chinoise.

Brioche Microwave Cake

5ea eggs
60g cake flour
120g brioche
100g sugar
120g brown butter
6g salt

Vita Prep (or blend) together the eggs, brioche, sugar, and salt. Transfer to a bowl and whisk in sifted cake flour. Stream in melted, but not hot, brown butter while whisking. Load into a canister and charge twice with N2O. Pipe into a paper cup and microwave for 25 seconds or until fully cooked.

Bacon Powder

Malto Dextrin
Glucose Powder
LIquid Nitrogen

Bake bacon at 350F until crispy. Drain fat, mix in food processor with enough malto dextrin to make fluffy powder. Dip fried bacon in liquid nitrogen and Vita Prep to powder. Whisk into maltodextrin. Season with salt and glucose powder.

Jiho demonstrating one of the components on his dessert

Crab Salad Roulade with Carrot Gelee

My sous chef asked me to taste some carrot juice he had just made and asked me, “What do you think about pairing this with crab salad?”  I have to admit, I didn’t really know what to say.  The bright, intensely orange colored liquid was fresh and sweet, the essence of carrot.  I liked it.  I like crab salad.  But, I couldn’t really picture what kind of dish he had in mind.

I had no idea the dish would look like this:

As it turns out, the crab salad roulade with carrot gelee is one of my favorite new dishes off the spring menu.  Not only because it is extremely visually appealing with the white and red-rimmed overlapping discs of radish against the shiny, almost shockingly orange pool of carrot juice, but also because of how the flavors and textures work together as well.  It is a pleasure to make and plate this dish from start to finish everyday.

The Ingredients

Crab Salad Roulade

  • lemon zest
  • orange zest
  • fresh lemon juice
  • red onion brunoise
  • jalapeno pepper
  • minced fine herbs (parsley, chervil)
  • 3-4 Tb aioli
  • salt to taste
  • 1 lb fresh Johah crab meat
  • shaved radish
  • 2 sheets of gelatin
  • 1/4 cup of cream

Initially, I was a little intimidated by how difficult the dish seemed to be, but looks can be deceiving.  As long as you have all the ingredients prepared in advance and ready to go, the crab roulades are actually incredibly simple to make once you’ve mastered the technique.

The Process

Bloom 2 sheets of gelatin in ice water.  Pour the cream into a small pot and set aside.

Drain and press dry 1 lb of fresh Jonah crab meat and gently pick through the meat to make sure there are no shell remnants.  In a large mixing bowl, gently fold in all of the above ingredients (citrus zest, onion, jalapeno, herbs, aioli, salt).  Taste the mixture. The crab salad needs to taste bright and citrusy.  Add more fresh lemon juice and salt if necessary.

Once the crab salad is ready, warm up the cream until it is hot enough to melt the 2 sheets of gelatin.  Do not let the cream boil, since gelatin will become deactivated if it gets too hot.  Fold the gelatin-cream mixture into the crab salad.  Refrigerate to allow the crab salad to set.  Adding gelatin to the crab salad allows you to pipe the mixture into a nice, tight cylinder that will hold its shape without bleeding any of the juices.

In the meantime, prepare the radishes for wrapping the roulade.  Wash radishes thoroughly, trim off both ends and shave into thin coins using a mandolin.  The slices will be about 1.5 millimeters thick…they should not be paper-thin.  Blanch very briefly in salted boiling water (2 seconds) and drain immediately onto a tray lined with paper towels.  Press dry with paper towels.  The radish coins should be pliable but with the red rims bright and intact.  If the radishes are cooked for too long, they red color will bleed into the white part of the radish and the color will fade very quickly.

At this point, the gelatin in the crab mixture should be set.  Transfer the crab mixture into a piping bag and trim the tip til it is a half inch wide.  Spread out a piece of plastic wrap onto your work surface.  Lay out 2 overlapping rows of the radish coins.  Pipe the crab salad mixture.  Lift up the edge of the plastic wrap closest to your body and carefully roll.  Tie off the ends securely to ensure a tight cylinder.


Slice off both knotted ends of the roulade.  Find the seam of the plastic wrap. Carefully unroll.  Place in the center of the carrot gelee set in the plate.  Garnish with a dollop of creme fraiche, caviar, shaved carrot, micro herbs, edible flowers, and (not pictured) a half of a deep-fried, tempura soft shell crab claw on either end of the roulade.  Served table-side with a drizzle of simple lemon and olive oil vinaigrette.