Elm City Herbal Tea; 116 Crown, New Haven
“Winter lies too long in country towns; hangs on until it is stale and shabby, old and sullen.”
–Willa Cather, MY ANTONIA
And February lingers on.
Maybe it’s my late-in-the game catch up to Mad Men (all 5 seasons in the past month), but I’m starting to get a real feeling for dark liquor. This past weekend, it was rye. There’s something about both rye and bourbon that is especially suited to the cold weather. They taste dark, just like their color. They taste dangerous. I like it.
I am in all cases a huge fan of John Ginnetti, the owner and cocktail master at
116 Crown in New Haven. His cocktails are smart, thoughtful and creative. Not too precious, and often rather inspired. Last summer, I wrote about his Doc Holiday, which combined Michter’s Rye with freshly muddled native strawberry, DePaz Cane Syrup, lime and lemon juice. John’s “Elm City Herbal Tea” uses rye in an entirely different way. The base of the drink is piping hot Earl Grey Tea, whose primary flavor is of the Bergamot orange, a small citrus tree that blossoms in the Mediterranean during the last days of winter. How appropriate.
The name “Herbal” alludes not to tea, but to the Amaro Sabilla, whose strong bitter and tannic taste dominates the cocktail. I have developed a taste for bitter lately, after encountering my “gateway amaro” of Campari, which I sipped with ruby red grapefruit all last summer. The Italian Varnelli Distillery creates their Amaro Sabilla from a mixture of herbs and roots, which are “prepared over a wood fire and sweetened with the honey produced in the Sibillini Mountains.”
John balances the Amaro with local honey from Urban Farmer and Beekeeper Benjamin Gardner.
Although the Elm City Herbal Tea may be garnished with whipped cream, I opted for fresh lemon slices and a lovely assortment of edible flowers. Both enticing reminders of the imminent vernal equinox. I loved sipping this beautiful, flavorful warm tea, while the Earth slowly tilted just that much closer toward the sun.
Elm City Herbal Tea
John Ginnetti, 116 Crown; New Haven, CT
1 oz Amaro Sabilla
1 oz High West Double Rye
Honey (to taste)
2 oz Earl Grey tea
Mix first three ingredients in your favorite mug and stir until honey begins to thin
Add hot Earl Grey and continue to stir
If you take your tea with milk, a knob of stiff whipped cream can be added
Alternatively, garnish with lemon slices and edible flowers