Spirits and liqueurs come in and out of fashion. One day gin is the spirit of choice, the next day, campari has taken its place. Some imbibers crave a vintage cocktail with a modern twist while others desire something completely out of the ordinary. For those renegades, might we suggest tea liqueur, the latest in a string of beverages used to craft interesting cocktails? Portland-based Thomas & Sons is the undisputed king of this hot new spirit.
Headquartered in a small Brooklyn distillery, Thomas & Sons, a subsidiary of iconic Townshend Teas, has taken Portland and much of the West Coast by storm. Distilled from tea and sugar, with no artificial additives, Thomas & Sons makes everything in house, from their popular flavorful kombucha to their new alcoholic undertaking.
Multiple organic botanicals and tea leaves are placed in large fermentation tanks for two to three weeks before being transferred to a large still. All of this done under the watchful eye of distiller Seth O’Malley, a 24-year-old local college grad who lives and breathes all things spirits.
“We are a tea company first,” says O’Malley. “Coming from a spirits background, I wanted to fuse the worlds of tea and spirits together and be true to the sprit of Townshends.”
Thomas & Sons has created a wide array of tea liqueurs, perfect for any palate: if you like peaty spirits such as scotch, you’ll love the smoke tea. If alcoholic Arnold Palmers (aka the “simply irresistible” Robert Palmer) are your drink of choice, the sweet tea will delight you. Chai lovers will savor the clove and Kashmiri spices of the bitter tea. And hot toddy aficionados, who crave the flavors of cinnamon and ginger, will surely wax poetic about the spice tea. There’s also an 80-proof white rose speciality distilled spirit that can be used in place of gin in many cocktails.
The company intends to introduce a Northwest-style Fernet soon featuring birch, Doug Fir, myrrh and local hops. The liqueurs are available throughout Oregon, Washington and Idaho.
Maybe your teetotaler friends will get in on the act. It is tea based after all!
Smoked Old Fashioned
Created by Lydia McLuen, Moloko
1-1/2 oz. Buffalo Trace bourbon
1/2 oz Smoke Tea
1/4 oz. demerara syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Combine all ingredients in a pint or mixing glass.
Add ice and stir 25 times.
Strain into an old fashioned glass with a large ice cube.
Garnish with a grapefruit twist.
*Made with equal parts raw sugar and hot water