So, in case you’ve not heard, Prince William and his lady in waiting, Kate Middleton, are getting mawwied in April. Though neither royalist nor republican (small “r”, people) myself, I did think that a royal wedding-watching party would be fun. And what better way to celebrate that with a “tea” party? I’m still debating whether to go traditional (finger sandwiches, Victoria sponge) or literalist (tea-smoked duck, green tea roulade), but I have decided that guests will be required to wear hats–best hat wins a prize direct from the Buckingham Palace gift shop courtesy of Mr. T’s mom.
In addition to hats, however, a tea party also requires tea. But since I’m not really a fan of hot tea, and this is going to be at its root a cocktail party, regular old PG Tips in the ancestral teapot was not going to cut it. Instead, I’ve just put up a big bottle of Earl Grey vodka–a more spirited libation in keeping with our slightly less beholden-to-protocol festivities. Having made it before for a St. George’s Day party several years ago, I can say that this is a delicious elixir shaken on its own with a twist, or with a bit of cranberry juice for a punch, or further enlivened with a bit of champagne or sparkling water and a bit of simple syrup.
It’s very easy to infuse liquors, and this is no exception. I spent more time and energy scraping labels off bottles than I did putting all the ingredients together. The syrup that gets added isn’t enough to make it sweet, it just rounds off some of the rough edges. The one thing you DO need is a bit of foresight. Most mixtures do best with 3-4 weeks of infusing time, so if you want to toast Wills and Kate, get thee to the liquor store posthaste!
Earl Grey Vodka
3 organic lemons (Meyer is particularly nice)
6 Earl Grey tea bags (decaf or regular)
1.75l bottle of vodka*
150ml simple syrup (1:1 water and sugar, cooked just till sugar is dissolved)
Drink about 150ml of the vodka. Woo!
Scrub the lemons and dry completely. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest from the lemons in long strips–leaving the bitter white pith on the fruit. Stuff the peel into the bottle. Cut the tags from the tea bags and stuff them into the bottle as well. Recap the bottle and secret away in the back of your liquor cabinet for 3-4 weeks. You can give it a shake now and again, which is very satisfying, but is not super necessary.
After the vodka has steeped, strain the liquid through a cheesecloth-lined strainer into a large glass or ceramic bowl. Remove the tea bags and lemon zest from the bottle (a chopstick can be handy for this), and give the bottle a good rinse. Using a funnel, pour the strained vodka back into the cleaned bottle. Top off with simple syrup and recap. Your party may now begin.
Notes & Variations
On vodka: since winning the NYT taste test several years ago, Smirnoff has been our house vodka. Use whatever you like, but it should probably be a mid-shelf selection. Avoid the Dupra/Poland Spring/Majorska–for obvious reasons (“it vill keeel you!”)–and save the super-fancy stuff for straight-shootin’.