No, this is not about the shipping magnate, but rather a special story about a special friend and a secret ingredient.
By now you must know that creativity and outside-of-the-box ideas are passions of mine, and the same holds true in my food adventures. After all, I'm a creative by trade and at heart, and one of my happiest projects was the book "Cuisine Arts Cocktails", for which I wrote another blog that you can read here.
So when my Greek-American friend, Onassis, a doctor and avid cook and mixologist, offered me an unusually tasty cocktail last week, I knew I had to write about it. His secret ingredient is Greek mountain tea (tsaï tou vounoú), which is usually drunk as a remedy for the cold and flu, or as a digestive aid, or just because of the many health benefits it seems to have. But I certainly had never had a cocktail with it!
Onassis has a deeply personal reason for loving mountain tea and he uses it not only in mixology but also in his cooking (he poaches his favorite fish in it, but that's another story). Onassis went away to college as a young man but he was always visiting his yiayiá when he'd come home to Cincinnati. She would always make him Greek mountain tea and would give it her own special touch, mixing it with cinnamon, spices, orange and lemon zest. Over a cup of this extra flavorful tea, she would listen to his news of life far from home. So cooking and mixing with mountain tea became Onassis' very personal homage to a very special person and time in his life.
Greek mountain tea was part of my upbringing as well, although in my family we mixed it with fresh sage and drank it every night before going to bed. I have to admit that my creativity never got me thinking of putting this bedtime drink in a cocktail so I was really impressed with where Onassis' imagination took him and immediately went home and tried it. I used Sparoza's The Aurora Tea, a blend with herbs and spices that reminded me of Onassis' grandmother. Here is my version, with all my love for our Greek grandmothers and their always ready ear.
3 oz of brewed Sparoza's The Aurora Tea
1/2 oz gin
1/2 oz Grand Marnier
1/2 oz clarified orange juice or strained through a fine mesh
1/4 oz clarified lemon juice or strained through a fine mesh
1 tbsp simple syrup
Prepare a cup of Sparoza's Aurora tea according to the package instructions.
Take 3 oz of the tea and the rest of the ingredients and place in a shaker with a few ice cubes.
Shake well and strain into a martini glass.
Add a slice of orange peel and enjoy!
To make simple syrup, mix equal parts of water and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. When it starts to simmer and the mixture is clear, remove the pan from the heat and let it cool. You can add herbs or citrus rind to your simple syrup to infuse it with a special flavor; add them right when you remove the syrup from the heat until it is cooled, then discard them.
If you want your cocktail to be clear, you can clarify your citrus fruits with agar powder. Alternatively you can just strain the juice with a fine mesh.
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