Happy New Year!
Over the years we have done plenty of experiments with ingredients, often recommending to our readers that it's okay to adopt a playful attitude of trial and error when it comes to recipes. Sometimes it's a result of substitutions for not having the right ingredients, but more often it comes down to personal taste. There are recipes that call for very specific proportions, but most of the time it makes more sense to taste the result and adjust as necessary. For instance, adjustments are almost always expected when balancing sweet and sour. One never knows how much acid is present in a volume of citrus juice, and personal taste can affect what you consider "balanced". We tend to lean toward the sour side, but we understand that some recipes are meant to be sweet. Time and experience can transform your idea of a good cocktail.
Today, we are turning back the clock several years to a time before we started writing about cocktails. The scene was St. Paul, Minnesota, formal dining at W.A. Frost & Company—a place that was already starting to mix interesting flavors at the bar. We tried a lowball cocktail before dinner one night and enjoyed the experience enough to make a few notes about the ingredients: Earl Grey tea-infused bourbon, lime, and Pama liqueur. So, here we are, years later, trying to reconstruct a drink we thought we enjoyed one night at a restaurant more than 1500 miles away. It should be a fun experiment!
Let's start with the base spirit. Bourbon can be a serious subject, but for our purposes, we don't need to use anything rare or expensive. To make the Earl Grey tea infusion we poured four ounces of bourbon into a jar with a single tea bag, closed the lid and let it sit for 24 hours. The next day, we had a very dark base spirit scented with bergamot tea!
Next, we grabbed our bottle of Pama. We don't use Pama very often, but we should reconsider that habit. Despite being a liqueur, it retains the acidic bite that you get when you drink fresh juice. We knew the flavor could get lost among the other ingredients, so we added a full ounce, which isn't as sweet as it sounds. It's a pomegranate liqueur, but instead of being sweet like you might expect from grenadine, it's tastes more like sweetened pomegranate juice.
To the Pama, we added a half-ounce of fresh lime juice. Together, these quantities are not balanced. Pama is unusual—if this was Cointreau, it would be a different story. So, we added a quarter-ounce of simple syrup. More on that in a moment.
1.5 oz Earl Grey tea-infused bourbon (see below)
1 oz Pama pomegranate liqueur
.5 oz lime juice
.25 oz simple syrup
1 oz seltzer
Add ingredients to a mixing glass. Shake with ice and strain into a low-ball or rocks glass filled with fresh ice. Top with sparkling water (or tonic) and garnish with a lime wedge.
Earl Grey tea-infused bourbon
Add a tea bag to 4 ounces of bourbon and steep in a sealed jar for 24 hours. Remove and discard the tea bag.
Now, some of you are looking at the recipe and wondering why lime juice and bourbon don't clash. Most whiskey cocktails opt for lemon, but here, it somehow works. It might be the Earl Grey tea or it could be the Pama, but lime definitely plays nicely with the bourbon. We tried the recipe without any added sugar. It's nice, but the flavor is dry. It has a sourness that is odd at first, but it grows on you as you try to decipher the mystery ingredients. Then, we added a little simple syrup and—BANG! The bergamot tea flavor practically jumps out of the glass and everything comes into balance. A half-ounce of simple syrup makes the drink even sweeter, but we don't think it's necessary to go that far. You could also top with tonic instead of seltzer to add some bitterness to the flavor profile—that's what they did at the restaurant.
Since we cannot remember the name, we needed to come up with something. It has been cold lately which made us think of permafrost, so we decided use that idea and commemorate the restaurant and liqueur by calling it the Pama Frost. Have a go at Earl Grey tea-infused bourbon and let us know what you think of this cocktail.