As you have probably noticed, this week is all about using science to take advantage of unintuitive flavor combinations by looking for chemical similarities in aromas. Today’s pairing is tomato and black tea. It turns out that molecular gastronomy enthusiasts have their own version of mixology monday, which they call “They Go Really Well Together“, and that’s how I discovered this particular combination.
The unfortunate truth is that it’s hard to get excited about savory drinks, and tomatoes lean very heavily toward the umami side of the flavor spectrum, so even if you sweeten it, it’s going to be savory. One trick I have found for making tomato a more appetizing cocktail ingredient is to clarify it, as we did during our Bloody Mary Workshop. The procedure is very simple; pour fresh tomato juice into a funnel lined with a coffee filter and wait a few hours. You could even set it up in the fridge and let it go over night if you needed to make a lot. The end product still tastes like tomato juice, but it has a mercifully un-chunky texture, which I think is the worst part of tomato in a cocktail.
I wanted to use a relatively neutral spirit for the base of this drink, and I’ve been flush with Pisco lately, so it was a convenient choice. In order to get some black tea in this drink, I decided to infuse earl grey into the Pisco. Tea infuses into hot water in a matter of a few minutes, and it infuses into strong spirits only slightly slower. I let the earl grey steep in the Pisco for only fifteen minutes before it became dark and cloudy with the tea. But don’t trust my steep time; as with all infusions, your own good taste must be the final arbiter regarding how long to allow it to infuse.
1.5 oz Earl Grey-Infused Pisco (Tabernero)
1.5 oz Clarified Heirloom Tomato Juice
.25 oz Simple Syrup
.25 oz Lime Juice
Pinch of Salt
1 Dash Angostura Bitters
Shake over ice and double strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a tiny grilled cheese sandwich and a cherry tomato.
This drink had a tangy, pungent flavor from the combination of the tomato and lime, which also went nicely with the bergamot in the earl grey. I did enjoy the interplay between the tea’s bitter tannin and the tomato’s roundness, but as with all savory drinks, it’s hard to love it. Actually, James thought it might be the best tomato drink we have made, and I am inclined to agree. It didn’t have any of the salsa or soup qualities from which most Bloody Mary style drinks suffer. If you like tomato juice, it’s worth a try, otherwise, may I direct you to The Pearnsip.
Before I go, a quick note on the theme: I garnished this drink with a grilled cheese because I reasoned, on a rainy Washington day, what could be better than a cup of hot tea, a bowl of tomato soup, and a grilled cheese sandwich? This drink was my attempt to capture all of those elements in a single preparation. You have to eat the grilled cheese right away, unfortunately, as it is but a single bite, and it does not retain its heat, not even long enough for a photo shoot.