Powder Monkey + tea rum.
In the days of sail it was quickly discovered that storing large quantities of gunpowder next to the guns on the upper decks of your warship was a bad idea (hint: ka-boom!). A much better idea was to store the gunpowder below the waterline out of reach (mostly) of enemy fire next to the rum and other valuables. In a battle this necessitated the fetching of smaller quantities of powder to the guns in a sort of early just-in-time system. This fetcher needed to be small (ships were pretty cramped) and fast. Yep, you needed a child. And this poor child was called a powder monkey. Which is, of course, an excellent name for a cocktail. Often I start with the name and kind of work backwards from there and this is one of those cases. My next thought was to infuse some rum (well, duh) with some of that super smoky gunpowder tea. This was going great until I discovered that I had my teas all mixed up. The smoky tea I had been thinking of was actually lapsang souchong so it was back to the tea shop for me. Now Lapsang Souchong Monkey didn’t have quite the same ring to it so I stuck with plan A and hoped no-one would notice. Luckily my mistake worked out for the best. While the gunpowder infused rum was quite pleasant and the lapsang souchong rum was very tasty, if a bit over the top, a combination of the two was right in the Goldilocks zone. Lapsang souchong has the lovely smokiness I was after but it lacks the bitterness of other teas and the gunpowder tea restored the balance beautifully. Huzzah! Given how good this was already I didn’t see much point in drowning it in other ingredients so the Old Fashioned treatment seemed to be in order. With appropriate twists of course. But first, the tea infused rum. Throw a small pinch of really good lapsang souchong leaf tea and the same of gunpowder tea* into two ounces (60ml) of rum and let it sit for more than an hour but less than two. Stir it once or twice for good measure and then strain it through a fine mesh strainer. I’ve not fully scaled it up yet but I’d estimate this to be about five level teaspoons of tea (2.5 of each type) per 700ml bottle of rum if you want to make it in bulk. Again, remember that tea infuses much more quickly than other substances so about 90 minutes is long enough. Use a good rum but nothing too high end. I’ve found Havana Club 7 year old to be quite receptive. A navy style rum is tempting here but might well be a little too sweet. For the same reason we’ll go easy on the sugar syrup – just shy of a teaspoon of 1:1 syrup (I like a demerara syrup here). I used a homemade pimento (aka allspice) bitters but you could use Dale DeGroff’s pimento bitters or try something more standard such as good old Angostura. A good swathe of orange peel and the Old Fashioned treatment is all that is required to set your Powder Monkey off.
I wonder if this would work with some tea infused Monkey Shoulder whisky or Monkey 47 gin instead of rum? Watch this space…
2 oz / 60ml lapsang souchong and gunpowder infused rum – see text*.
1 scant teaspoon (3.5-4ml) of simple syrup (1:1)
1 dash pimento bitters (or another aromatic bitters such as Angostura).
Stir with ice and strain into a DOF glass containing a large block of clear ice.
Add a good long orange twist (don’t be tempted to skip this as it makes a big difference).
Toast powder monkeys – and I thought delivering newspapers in the rain was a shitty job.
* As usual I urge you to experiment with other teas. Please feel free to report back in the comments if you discover any other killer combos.