Admittedly, Saxon & Parole’s Three-Minute Toddy is a bit gimmicky. A glass of hot water, spiked with gin, is paired with a slice of lemon and a small, housemade sachet containing dried hibiscus, rooibos tea and spices. When placed inside the glass, the teabag slowly transforms the drink to a deep ruby hue, while a slender egg timer paces the three-minute steep.
Is it new? Of course not. This technique has long been used to flavor hot drinks and aid in making flavored syrups. But how many of us are building our own custom teabags specifically for infusing cocktails?
Maxime Belfand, bar director for AvroKO, the restaurant group that owns Saxon & Parole, says his sachet concept was inspired by a dinner he’d recently had at the Brooklyn restaurant, Olmsted. Watching his dinner companions engaged in cooking their own seafood at the table in a Korean-style hot pot, he wanted guests at his bar to have a similarly interactive experience. Though he initially experimented with reusable organic cotton tea bags in the toddy, he found that they stained easily, prompting a switch to biodegradable paper bags, which can be purchased cheaply in bulk.
The end result is “a very straightforward, simple drink,” says Belfand. “It just needs a little bit of prep before.”
The technique isn’t limited to hot drinks, however. Sachets can be used to flavor cold drinks as well; a quick dip in hot liquid will activate the contents, which can then be squeezed of excess liquid and used to flavor just a few ounces of spirit for a chilled cocktail.
Here are three of Belfand’s go-to blends and the drinks to try them in.
This combination of citrus peels, chamomile and juniper mimics the flavor of tonic, without the bubbles, and works especially well in vodka-based drinks.
Made with green tea and spices, this blend works well in bourbon- or rye-based drinks, including a number of julep variations.
This spiced turmeric- and chai-based blend can be steeped in hot milk mixed with honey and aged rum, says Belfand, though it can work in a number of cold drinks as well.