Tea Rhubarb Sour for Fauxtail Friday
So here’s a thing. I quit drinking alcohol again. I stopped for more than a year while I first followed the autoimmune protocol and observed four significant things:
1) I felt effing awesome. I slept great, I wrote better (which was good, because I was writing Twin Cities Chef’s Table at the time), my mood lifted (I was going through a divorce, so all mood lifters were welcome), and I didn’t need caffeine anymore.
2) I looked better. Let’s be honest here. I am no longer in my twenties. Or my thirties. And I’m almost not even in my forties and so…after forty (or thirty?) things that aren’t all that great for you SHOW. BELIEVE THAT. I didn’t use to believe that.
Photo by Erik Eastman.
And now I do.
3) I didn’t miss it. This surprised me. If you follow me on social media, I’ve hashtagged a TON of posts #bubbles over the years. I wonder how much money I’ve spent on bubbles? Hmmm… Luckily, I love #bubblewater too. I’ve learned that the glass of wine I enjoyed as I made (or waited for) dinner was really a desire for flavor and sparkle and thirst-quenching. Which makes sense – we’re all hungry and thirsty at the end of the day.
4) I had more fun without it. I’m a Badger by way of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and I learned at a young and illegal age that drinking and fun go together. I funned my way through college, almost to the point of wrecking my education, but I pulled back from the brink and became a serious student and got on with my life.
I drank only occasionally for years, until I started spending more time in the food world, where excessive drinking is the norm – even though it’s not normal – and like I had in college, I comfortably slid into this boozier normal. When my health tanked and I switched to NA beverages, I realized it was just as fun to not drink at food events – because what’s fun is my hilarious friends – and that it’s in fact lovely to leave earlier, safely drive home, sleep like a rock, and feel great the next day. #leduh
So why did I start again?
I am an obsessive experimenter and I was curious to know if it would matter all that much if I drank one or two days a week. And I discovered that it did matter. Even one night a week left me tired and brain foggy for days afterward. And since I’d gotten used to feeling so great, I had much less tolerance for even a mild headache and/or fatigue. And because I’m vain as hell, I can not stand the dull skin and puffy eyes and tummy I have after even one glass of wine. That might truly be my biggest motivator.
My gene pool is thick with tall people, curly hair, brown eyes, raconteurs, and…(recovering) alcoholics. It was time I said thank you for the good genes and stopped tempting the bad.
And so I’m back, this time permanently, to a life without alcohol.
But not without cocktails, or in this case mocktails, courtesy of my handsome and brilliant boyfriend Erik Eastman of Easy & Oskey. Yes, I’m dating someone who makes the best cocktails I’ve ever had. Coincidence? I think not, because great cocktails are really about great flavors and I so admire Erik’s palate (not surprisingly, he’s also an incredible cook). So when I decided to not drink alcohol anymore, he got busy creating complex and delicious NA delights and it’s been SO FUN, to both see his creative process and to consume the results.
We had a ball making fauxtails and taking pics in an alley in Lowertown St. Paul.
And so I introduce you to Erik Eastman and to Fauxtail Friday, where we’ll be sharing fun NA drinks with you, to shake up on a relaxing evening or to make in batches for a party.
I dislike the term “mocktail.” I dislike it quite a lot actually, more than any normal, well-adjusted person should. I realize it’s handy to have a term to refer to a “cocktailesque concoction minus the alcohol,” but the negativity that the term “mock” implies gives the whole situation a bad vibe. Plus, if you google “mocktails” and click on images…you get a sad display of rainbow-colored, overly Pinterest-y, artificial-looking yuck.
Enter, the fauxtail™. “Faux” of course means…artificial…which I actually like better than “mock,” because there is something more intentional and less rude about “faux.” Faux owns the fact that it’s not the real McCoy. (Stephanie’s note: Also, faux is French, and French rocks, and so faux it is.)
Photo by Erik Eastman.
A fauxtail by our definition is clean and balanced and crisp, in execution, presentation, and on the palate. We promise not to scatter bits of inedible garnish here and there or allow herbs to erupt from the glass like weeds after a rainstorm. Our goal is a delicious, balanced, and crave-able drink, a worthy and equal sober counterpoint to the cocktail, pretty to look at, and comfortable in its own glass. Like an excellent cocktail, a fauxtail is made from things you recognize and cook with and use in culinary applications – honey, pepper, tea, fresh herbs, fruits, egg white. Perhaps in different forms or treated a bit differently for beverage purposes, but real, recognizable ingredients.
And so, other than freshly squeezed citrus juices (which fall into the category of “given”), there are two keys to an elevated boozeless beverage, aka the fauxtail:
The first key is in the tea – select a tea with some character and complexity, because it is essentially standing in for the spirit component of a traditional cocktail. This perhaps means selecting a tea that is a little outside what you’d normally tuck into on a chilly evening. Pick a black tea that is robust, full bodied, even smoky, and then brew it VERY strong.
You actually want the tea to be tipped over into the “too bitter to sip” category, because remember you’ll be adding modifiers like sugar and citrus to add depth and balance to your tasty boozeless tipple. Beginning with a tea that is “too bitter” will allow you to attach multiple interesting sweet and sour and acidic components to it to make your palate do the same dance it does for well balanced cocktails.
Fine strain into a pretty glass.
The second key is fresh sour mix, which is essentially a weak simple syrup fortified with fresh citrus (and a couple of optional but highly recommended extras – citric acid and powdered egg white, both easily available online, see below). Fresh sour mix keeps for a week (maybe two), and will not only take your drink to the next level taste-wise, but will give it the visual and textural appeal that will register in your brain as “cocktail.”
The general formula for a tea-based fauxtail is:
Bitter + Sweet and Sour + Acidity
In fact, you can absolutely make successful fauxtails with 3 ingredients:
Strong tea + Simple Syrup + Fresh Citrus
Tea & Rhubarb Sour
Recipe by Erik Eastman of Easy & Oskey
Makes 1 drink
Preparation Note: For a party, you can scale up the recipe as needed; mix in a large jar or pitcher, cover, and refrigerate. Can be made one day ahead. Stir to re-mix ingredients, then portion out and shake individual cocktails with ice (per instructions below) to serve.
Equipment Notes: The process of making a fauxtail should be an enjoyable, sensory experience. Using proper tools enhances that enjoyment, similar to how the use of nice cookware enhances the cooking process.
I refer to the following in this recipe and will in the future as well:
Fine Strainer: Essential for straining out little shards of ice and citrus pulp from shaken drinks to produce an elegantly textured fauxtail (or cocktail).
Optional but really nice to have:
Glasses: Martini glasses are fine, but these with the rounded tops prevent spillage and look extra pretty.
Jigger: This jigger is amazing, the only one I ever use. The one that comes with the shaker above is fine, so this is nice-but-not-necessary. Optimally, you want a jigger that is a multi-tasker, measuring many different measurements accurately. For $9, this one measures .5, .75, 1, 1.5 and 2 ounce measurements, where the one above measures just .5 and 1 ounce.
2 1/4 ounces Lapsang Souchong (which is quite smoky; or other premium, full-bodied black tea) brewed very, very strong (less water and longer brew time than suggested on package directions)
3/4 ounce rhubarb simple syrup (recipe below)
3/4 ounce lemon sour mix (recipe below)
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 teaspoon Easy & Oskey Orange or Black Pepper Bitters (optional; they have an alcohol base)
Rhubarb Simple Syrup
Makes about 2 cups
4 cups chopped rhubarb
2 cups water
1 cup sugar (or honey)
Optional (not first-stage AIP)
Any combination of 1 teaspoon cardamom pods, 2 teaspoons whole allspice, 1 teaspoon black peppercorns (all crushed lightly in a mortar & pestle)
Put all ingredients in a medium sauce pan and set over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to very low and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes then fine strain into a large glass jar (never pour hot liquids into a glass jar). Refrigerate for up to two weeks, or freeze indefinitely.
Lemon Sour Mix
Makes about 3 cups
2 cups water
1 cup sugar (or honey)
3 lemons, zested
1 teaspoon cardamom pods, crushed (optional)
5 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon citric acid
2 teaspoons powdered egg whites (optional, not first-stage AIP)
In a large saucepan, combine water, sugar, zest, and optional cardamom and set over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil then turn heat to very low and simmer until sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute.
Remove from heat and steep until cool, at least 1 hour. Strain to remove spices and zest, then whisk in juice, citric acid, and powdered egg whites. Refrigerate for up to one week (and even two weeks, but it will lose some of its vibrancy).