I adore our friend @Chef_Jay for a number of reasons, one of them being that without him, I would never know what food day it is. By following Jay’s tweets, I always know that National Grilled Cheese Day, National Candy Month or, in the case of today, National Iced Tea Day is just around the corner.

Sometimes I actually get my act together enough to put together a timely post. Due to food coma (thank you, Ritz-Carlton Kapalua and Kapalua Wine & Food Festival), this post wasn’t ready for this morning, but, I’m committing to getting it up before indulging in any more pool time.

Sugar’s homemade jasmine tea-infused vodka. © 2012 Sugar + Shake

I love tea. Particularly green tea. It used to be difficult to find green tea-flavored items, but over the past years, it’s become quite trendy it seems, and it pops up everywhere. And now, we’re seeing tea-flavored vodkas and “sweet tea” vodka and liqueurs all over the place. Personally, I prefer making my own.

I found this post online some time ago, and it’s been my guide to infusing vodka ever since.

To make my vodka, I use Jasmine Dragon Phoenix Pearls. It sounds incredibly stupid and pretentious (like something non-Chinese people made up to market a product, or that Chinese people made up in order to convince non-Chinese people that it’s totally awesome and inscrutably Asian…sorry, I digress), but I love this tea. It’s made of young green tea leaves and jasmine petals rolled into little balls (unfortunately, they do resemble rabbit poops). We have a Lupicia store nearby, so I get it there, but they don’t seem to offer it online. You might try another source, like this one.

Jasmine Dragon Phoenix Pearls. Silly name, great tea. © 2012 Sugar + Shake

Build/Make/Craft/Bake advises steeping the tea in vodka and checking on it every 10 minutes once it gets to the 30-minute mark. I use approximately 1 tablespoon of Jasmine Dragon Phoenix Pearls for 375ml vodka (about a cup and a half). Checking it compulsively to make sure it doesn’t get bitter is a lovely excuse to keep sipping vodka, but I find about an hour is good for infusing it with a nice jasmine tea taste without bitterness. (Build/Make/Craft/Bake made me paranoid about imparting a bitter taste, but since I obsessively tasted and pulled out the tea as soon as I felt the vodka was tea-y enough, I truly have no idea at what point—if ever—it gets bitter.) I do my infusing in a large glass mason jar (make sure it’s really clean and doesn’t have any weird smells from whatever it contained before). Line a funnel with a coffee filter and use it to strain/pour the vodka into a clean bottle for storage. Whenever we get sample bottles of vodka, I save them just for this purpose.

As for creating an “iced tea” cocktail with this vodka, it all came about when a friend shared her CSA box bounty with us, challenging me to come up with a dinner using the contents of the box, Chopped chef-style. The box also contained these very strange wrinkly limes.

Kaffir lime on the right, regular lime on the left. Now you see why we thought we’d had old limes pawned off on us. © 2012 Sugar + Shake

At first, I thought that she’d been shafted by the CSA people and given old limes. I texted her, “WTF are these wrinkly things?!” “Kaffir limes!” I was informed. Hunh. Well, learn something new every day. So, it turns out that kaffir limes, the leaves of which I frequently see in the grocery store, are pretty ugly. (I still don’t know why we see the leaves in the store, but not the fruit.) They have, however, a wonderfully intense and somewhat floral taste. (I had to Google them so I could figure out how to incorporate them into our dinner.)

Having learned that, I thought they’d pair fantastically with my jasmine tea vodka. Since the dinner had ended up with an Asian theme, I called it an “Asian Iced Tea Martini” (I never said I was above naming things to sound totally awesome and inscrutably Asian) and served it up as a pre-dinner cocktail. They were so popular, I had to run back to our apartment to get ingredients to make a second round for everyone! (After that, we ran out of kaffir lime juice.)

If Long Island Iced Teas aren’t your thing, this is a refreshing, lighter alternative.

Sugar’s Asian Iced Tea Martini

Sugar’s Asian Iced Tea Martini. © 2012 Sugar + Shake

  • 2 oz. jasmine tea-infused vodka
  • 1 oz. Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur
  • ½ oz. kaffir lime juice
  • ¼  to ½ oz. honey syrup* (depending on how sweet you like your iced tea or cocktails)

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker over ice. Shake and strain into a martini glass. (Time saver for large groups: combine the ingredients in a large pitcher first, portion out and shake individually or in twos.)

*To make honey syrup: Combine 2 parts honey to 1 part boiling water. Stir and allow to cool. If honey isn’t easily poured, slowly add boiling water until sufficiently thinned. It should still remain somewhat syrup-y, otherwise the flavor and sweetness will be too diluted.