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Thai One Onby Luciano Valdivia

In a world where we have vodkas of almost every flavor—cranberry, citrus, orange, vanilla, apple—and every hip hop or real estate mogul comes out with the new “best” vodka…are we spoiled? Are too many choices a bad thing? While seeing half of a bar populated by different single malt Scotches with varying flavor profiles warms my soul (and belly for that matter), the site of a bar filled with more Vodka choices than I can possibly keep track of paradoxically makes me wonder if the artistry behind crafting a drink has been, well—poured down the drain.

It seems, however, that these perhaps passé “flavored” vodkas have opened the door for a world of imaginative infused vodkas, and for this, we should feel some gratitude. Nowadays it’s almost impossible to go to any restaurant in the arguably epicurean-oriented Hudson Valley and not see at least one infused vodka on a drink menu. With an ever increasing public interest in mixology, the world of cocktails is quickly becoming as nuanced as the world of food. What better way to complement the perfectly composed dish than by pairing it with an equally perfected beverage. As the temperature changes why not try infusing vodka, whose flavor profile lends itself to anything you put in it, with the Fall temperature’s favorite companion: TEA.

Vodka and tea? Why not? Of course, we’re not talking about the kitchen-sink well-booze concoction known as the Long Island Ice Tea here, we’re talking the tea that’s produced from the leaves, leaf buds, and internodes of the Camellia Sinensis plant, which all six varieties of tea—white, yellow, green, black, oolong, and pu-erh—are derived from. More complex flavored herbal teas are teas in which flowers, fruit, herbs, or other plant material are added to make an infusion.

Fortunately for tea lovers, we have Harney & Sons Tea, [www.harney.com] located right here in Dutchess County, in the village of Millerton. Started in 1983 by John Harney in the basement of his Salisbury CT home, the tea company sells more than 250 single-estate and blended varieties of tea either loose or in silk sachets. One of these teas is a blend of green tea, coconut, lemongrass, and ginger called “Bangkok,” which lends itself wonderfully to vodka-inspired possibilities.



Here is a recipe for a tasty fall beverage using Harney & Sons, Bangkok tea. This requires preparation in advance. Serves 16.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 cans coconut milk
  • ½ cup honey
  • 1 fifth of vodka
  • 5 silk sachets of Harney & Sons Bangkok Tea
  • 8 tsp. coconut flakes

Place tea sachets in vodka, and let sit for at least 24 hours to ensure proper infusion. Bring coconut milk to slight simmer in a saucepan. Gradually stream in honey until it completely dissolves in coconut milk, and simmer for 2 minutes. Place coconut honey mixture in refrigerator and let cool overnight. For coconut flake garnish, toast coconut flakes on sheet pan in 350° oven for 5 to 10 minutes, until golden brown. Shuffle flakes for even toast.

To make the cocktail:

Pour 2 oz. of tea-infused vodka over ice in bar shaker. Pour in 4 oz. of honey-sweetened coconut mixture and shake vigorously. Strain into martini glass, and sprinkle toasted coconut flakes in center, or use Rose’s lime juice to rim glass with flakes. Enjoy!


Luciano Valdivia—general manager of Bull & Buddha, Poughkeepsie—is a frequent contributor to Roll.



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