Welcome to the Friday Happy Hour, your single drink primer for the weekend.
For this holiday weekend which proudly celebrates our American independence, it might be treasonous to suggest you head over to British gastro-pub AGAINN for your happy hour, but there are two words guaranteed to make me do a happy dance in the world of drinks – tinctures and tea. Add moonshine, and well, say no more.
Ace bartender JP Caceres showed me how they are serving up a Moonshine Iced Tea cocktail with inspiration coming from the past – traveling medicine shows where old wives’ wisdom in the form of specially crafted tinctures cured all ails. Your bartender will mix up the base – 1 oz of your liquor choice, 1 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1 oz simple syrup, and a highball glass is filled with crushed ice and tea. Here’s the fun part – you then get to choose from several different tea-based tinctures with delightful names (like Happy Tummy, Dawn Chorus, Easy Day) splashing a few drops into your drink to your own taste. The idea is to use some old-fashioned knowledge to self-medicate and experiment with different tastes depending on your mood. The results are lovely – flavors ranging from herbal, floral and vegetal with the alcohol just a side note to tea’s invigorating kick.
Ok, that sounds tempting Jenn, but what the heck are tinctures anyway?
First, we start with 100% organic loose-leaf tea blended with moonshine (AGAINN gets theirs from a legal distiller in Virginia, but you can use your favorite highest proof grain). Using a glass mason jar to mix, the moonshine should just saturate the leaves but don’t let them swim. Store the tightly sealed jar for about two weeks in a cool dry place. Then strain with a cheesecloth (JP says a coffee filter will also do in a pinch). A good way to test if it’s ready is to rub a few drops between your hands and inhale – if it has a heavy alcohol smell, it isn’t ready. If the scent of the tea somes through, you’re golden, strain away, and make sure you get it all by pressing hard. The liquid that’s left is the tincture. The color should be nice and dark, almost like molasses without the viscosity, and the finished tinctures don’t need to be refrigerated.
What did I use in my Moonshine Iced Tea? A combination of Wise Woman and Hibiscus High, utterly delicious with a beautiful aroma. “Not only are you drinking something refreshing and having a good time,” JP explained, “but you’re putting good things in your body.” He noted that the Wise Woman has mallow root, nettle and lemon balm to be good for your heart and circulation. Will it really work? I don’t care, it’s fun!
And never fear, JP promises to work on a hangover cure tincture for the future. “We’re not going to stop drinking,” he says, “but we can drink better!”