Left Bank Masala Chai Cocktail

Here’s another drink from the brandy seminar I attended in 2007, presented by Chad Solomon and Christy Pope and sponsored by Hennessey Cognac.

The final cocktail we were served was an example of the very kind of thing Hennessy and the gathered bartenders want to have happen — the creation of new brandy-based cocktails. Working with Audrey Saunders at the Pegu inspired them to do more experimentation with the infusion of teas into spirits, which has tremendously exciting flavor potential. Audrey Saunders; Earl Grey Marteani, which is insanely good, begins with a bottle of Tanqueray gin that has been infused with loose leaf Earl Grey tea.

Infusing tea is easy but you have to watch it. The general rule of thumb is 1 tablespoon of tea leaves per 8 ounces of spirits, so you’ll need about 4 tablespoons for a liter, 3 for a 750ml. The infusion time is two hours — no more, no less, especially not more. Any longer than that will mean more and more of the tannins will be extracted from the tea leaves, making the spirit overly tannic. “Even two hours and twenty minutes can kill the whole thing,” Chad said.

They experimented with the infusion of spiced Indian chai into Cognac, thought of making it creamy without making it too heavy and settled on a vanilla-flavored almond milk (easily obtainable at Whole Foods and similar markets); this way you get the creaminess without the weight. They had tried soy milk and found it completely unsuitable (unsurprising, as I find soy milk to be completely unpalatable), but the almond milk had just the right touch. I tasted some by itself, which I’d never done, and it’s wonderful stuff — I’m going to lay in a supply for myself now. A nice, silky body and creamy, foamy head came from the addition of egg white.

This is a really, reall good drink, perfect for dessert or even for breakfast or brunch.

Left Bank Masala Chai Cocktail
(by Chad Solomon and Christy Pope)

1-1/2 ounces chai-infused Hennessy VS Cognac.
1-1/2 ounces vanilla almond milk.
1/2 ounce honey syrup (2:1 honey and hot water; allow to cool).
3/4 ounce pasteurized egg white.

Combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker WITHOUT ICE. Shake for about 10 seconds without ice — this helps emulsify the ingredients nicely. THEN add the ice, and shake for a good 30 seconds. Strain into a wine goblet or decorative glass of your choice. Garnish with a grating of nutmeg and some toasted sliced or slivered almonds.