First up in our cocktail series is the Fogo Island Iced Tea, a cocktail born from my desire to make a great tea-based infusion. Infusing tea can be tricky. Previously when I had tried to make different tea infusions the only option was to let the tea sit on the chosen spirit for a period of time, and therein lay the problem. Picture a cup of tea with the teabag left in for a day or longer. It’s bitter and tannic, nothing like the tea was inside the first hour it was made. Infused tea was much the same, the flavour was there but it was far more bitter and the tannic characteristics of an old cup of tea lingered.
About 6 months ago Chef Shaun Hussey here at Chinched picked up a Thermal Immersion Circulator. It’s a pump that will keep a large bath of water at a very specific temperature. Used along with a vacuum sealer it’s a great way to cook, take a steak for example. Medium Rare in beef is 54⁰C, vacuum seal your steak in plastic and place it in a bath of water at exactly 54⁰C. You are guaranteed to get a perfect medium rare every time, and as the steak cooks the fat breaks down leaving it to cook in its own juices. In my opinion a steak out of the circulator quickly seared with a bit of butter will give you the best, most tender steak you’ve ever had. But I digress…
The arrival of this new toy was a great time to work at Chinched. Its presence almost seemed to force everyone to come up with weird and wonderful things you could do with it. While the kitchen was making cheese and cooking perfectly formed egg yolks I was looking to use it for infusions. Alcohol boils at 78.3⁰C and I now had a way to put alcoholic spirits and different ingredients under heat without worrying about explosions or burning off all the alcohol.
While we certainly aren’t the first to use a thermal circulator to infuse spirits there isn’t a whole lot of information around about recipes, times and temperatures. One of the few I came across was for Earl Gray and it was beautifully simple; 54⁰C for 8 minutes. I decided to go with Bombay Sapphire for the Gin and Earl Gray from David’s Tea. I thought the botanical aspects of Gin would work nicely with the citrus and fruity notes of the tea. In hindsight I can say that I prefer the infusion with Bombay to Tanqueray having tried both now. However at the time the reason I went with Bombay was that it was the only bottle that would fit on the shelf.
3 Table Spoons of Earl Gray and 750 mL of Bombay Sapphire in mason jar and into the circulator at 54⁰C for 8 minutes. After I take it out of the circulator I shock it in ice immediately, I want to get as much flavor out as possible but this helps to keep all hints of tannin out of the final product. After it has cooled it gets strained and returned to the mason jar ready to be served.
I fell into the recipe for the Fogo Island Iced Tea mostly by chance. At Chinched we have a few regulars who drink Long Island Iced Teas, and they like to drink a few of them. As such, I’ve made quite a few L.I.I.T.’s in the past year and I’ve consumed my fair share as well (for quality control of course). For those who aren’t familiar, a Long Island Iced Tea is made from equal parts: Vodka, Tequila, White Rum, Triple Sec and Gin. This is mixed with Lemon and then Cola is added to give it the color of Iced Tea. I’ve made them in the past with Long Island pre-mix (all the alcohols pre-mixed and pre-packaged) and lemon kool-aid (bar mix is a fancy word for kool-aid). When I started making them at Chinched I mixed the alcohols individually and made the cocktail with freshly squeezed lemon juice and the difference is remarkable. A L.I.I.T made the right way is delicious, made with pre-mix and kool-aid it’s not even in the same category.
So once I had my Earl Gray Gin I tried a couple different attempts at an alcoholic iced tea and never really got the effect I was looking for. Then I remembered the Long Island Iced Tea and figuredwhy not. Rather than the Long Island Mix I added 1.5oz of the Earl Gray Gin with the juice from a full lemon and topped it off with Pepsi for color.
The result is proof that the whole can be more than the sum of its parts. The concern I had when I first made the cocktail was that the pepsi would take over, however that couldn’t be further from what happened. The Early Gray bestows a very potent flavor on the gin and not much will out pace it. The resulting cocktail is very true to a citrus based iced tea with just a hint of cola-sweetness.
A few people have asked me about the origins of the name and why I chose Fogo. While I will admit that you could make the argument that both Pepsi and Tea are very popular items on Fogo, that has nothing to do with the name. Given I took inspiration from the Long Island take on Iced Tea I wanted to name it after a local island. Exploits Island Iced Tea and Bell Island Iced Tea just didn’t have the same ring to it.