My idea for this iced tea-slash-mocktail has been brewing ever since one of our readers suggested pu-erh as a possible non-alcoholic alternative to bourbon. (Thanks, missjulia!) Bourbon is my favorite liquor, but my partner is allergic to alcohol, so it seemed a fun challenge to create something we'd both enjoy. And pu-erh turned out to be the perfect ingredient.
Traditional to Yunnan province, China, pu-erh is an aged and fermented tea with a smooth, earthy flavor. In this drink, it provides a woodsy base, which is balanced and brighted with bittersweet marmalade, lemon juice, and fresh ginger. Though I call it an iced tea, it has the not-too-sweet richness and complexity of a brown liquor cocktail. Made in a shaker, it's something I'd sip on a special occasion rather than with a meal. (Note that pu-erh contains caffeine, so it's not ideal for everyone later in the day.)
Different varieties of pu-erh can get quite rare and expensive, but if you're looking for a more accessible tea, I recommend Emperor's Pu-Erh from Numi (see below). It's available in tea bags, looseleaf, and brick form at the Numi website and well-stocked markets like Whole Foods.
Is it iced tea season yet where you live? Even if it isn't, this drink serves as a good bridge from spring to summer, with its smoky, spicy, citrusy notes courtesy of this very special tea, a spoonful of marmalade, and a hit of fresh ginger.
→ Get the Tea: Emperor's Pu-Erh from Numi
Ginger Marmalade Pu-erh Iced Tea
1 1/2 tablespoons marmalade
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup (4 ounces) pu-erh tea (brewed double strength and cooled)
Orange twist for garnish
Muddle the marmalade, ginger, and lemon juice in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Add the tea and ice and shake well.
Strain into a glass. With the pith facing up, squeeze the orange peel over the glass to release some of the oils on top of the drink. Garnish with the orange twist and serve.
(Images: Emily Ho)