Enliven Your Stone Fruit Cocktails With Oolong Tea

In the realm of mixology, innovation is the key to success, and combining unexpected ingredients can lead to remarkable cocktails that awaken the palate. Stone fruits, such as peaches, plums, cherries, apricots, and nectarines, offer a spectrum of flavors, from sweet and juicy to tart and vibrant. Whether you like to drop frozen peach slices into a white sangria to give it a heavenly aroma or mix Japanese sour plum wine — which is called umeshu — with beer to give your lager just a hint of sweet and sour flavor, these fruits bring a natural sweetness and a touch of acidity that can transform ordinary beverages into extraordinary experiences.

However, have you ever considered pairing tea with these stone fruits in your cocktail (or mocktail)? Oolong tea is one of the four major types of tea available, and with its semi-oxidized leaves, oolong strikes a harmonious balance between the lightness of green tea and the richness of black tea. Originally created during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) exclusively for the imperial family, this nuanced tea adds a subtle earthy depth and a hint of floral notes to just about any drink. It's the perfect balance for stone fruit — not strong enough to overwhelm the subtle scents of peach or cherry, but not light enough to be buried under them either.

Three ways to brew oolong for your drinks

There are several ways to incorporate oolong tea into both mock- and cocktails: hot brewing, cold brewing, and creating syrups, spending on your preferences and needs. You can certainly brew tea as you usually would, but be careful with your water quality and temperature since both will impact the taste of your brew. Only use filtered water, and the ideal temperature for brewing oolong tea is between 175 to 185 degrees Fahrenheit. If in doubt, follow the instructions on the package.

Another way to brew tea is to cold brew it by steeping tea leaves in cold water for at least 24 hours. This will avoid the potential problem of burning the tea by using water that is too hot. On the other hand, you must plan ahead as cold brewing takes time.

Finally, if you wish to add tea flavor to the drink without creating a tall drink, making a syrup is the way to go. Steep your tea leaves in water that is just under the boiling point, and stir in sugar at a 1:1 volume ratio as the water. When fully infused, you will receive an intensely fragrant tea-infused syrup that can be used to flavor your stone fruit cocktails.

Combining stone fruits and oolong tea in cocktails

With the three options of making tea and tea-flavored syrups, you are now ready to incorporate them and stone fruits into your cocktails. For example, pick the tastiest peaches you can find and make a puree by puréeing the flesh in a blender. Mix peach purée, cold oolong tea, and bourbon over ice in a rocks glass to make an adult peach iced tea. The flavor of peach and oolong tea is a match made in heaven, and the sweetness of bourbon makes the combination a complex and sophisticated cocktail.

If you desire something lighter, try an apricot and oolong spritzer. First, prepare some tea ice cubes by freezing your cold brewed tea in an ice tray. Place these frozen cubes of tea in a pitcher and add cold brewed tea, frozen apricot slices, lemon juice, vodka, and seltzer water. Sweeten with oolong syrup to taste. By using ice cubes made of tea, your drink will not get watered down as quickly as using regular ice cubes.