For years, the wellness world (not us, obviously) has been going crazy about matcha. This finely milled green tea powder — the ingredient upon which traditional Japanese tea ceremonies were built in the 12th century — has been hailed for its health benefits, with claims ranging from improved mood to increased metabolism to prevention of disease.
Now if you know anything about us, you know we’re not exactly the first ones to run out and try the latest superfood. We will, however, be the first in line to try a new cocktail trend. So when we recently discovered the new book Matcha: A Lifestyle Guide, we have to admit it didn’t initially turn our heads — that is, until we realized that cocktails were part of the mix.
As the book reveals, this intensely earthy and bitter powder pairs well with the herbal and floral flavors of spirits like gin. However, matcha cocktails made with everything from mezcal to bourbon have been recently popping up in bars across the country. When it comes to using this bold ingredient, the most important part is balance. As Jason Eisner of the Block Party bar in LA explains, “Matcha works the same way that bitters work, but you can taste the earth where it came from. It has a sense of place. When you start dealing with things on the bitter side, you can end up with things that are a bit more murky. But matcha has none of those [sweeter, richer, denser] qualities; it can counteract those.” He goes on to explain that a drink of gin, triple sec, and lemon juice would be sweet and dense, but with the addition of basil and matcha, “the middle of the palate becomes herbal, kind of crisp and stimulating in a way that a simple citrus sugar balance can’t.”
So, how exactly do you use matcha? Well, first, it’s important to note that unlike brewed tea, matcha separates quickly in liquid form. Proper preparation of the tea involves using a bamboo whisk to break up the clumps in water and then drinking the tea before the powder can settle. In cocktails, an easier way to incorporate matcha is to use it in shaken drinks with a suspension such as egg white.
As Ben Mims, the cocktail recipe developer for the book, reveals, another great way is to create a simple syrup. Mix one tablespoon matcha with one cup of sugar and then pour in the hot water slowly. Whisk constantly until the syrup is smooth and the sugar dissolves. Mims explains that not only does the sugar prevent the matcha from seizing into globs, but it balances the bitterness so you don’t have to add more sweet ingredients to your cocktail.
Mims recommends putting a spin on classics by adding a half-ounce of syrup to drinks such as a Pimm’s Cup or a gin and tonic. He also suggests adding matcha syrup to drinks you may typically consider far too sweet, such as a minty, chocolatey Grasshopper.
So, what are you waiting for? Go on and get drinking — to your health.
Photo credits: Courtesy of Ramen San; Courtesy of Matcha: A Lifestyle Guide