I'm usually not a fan of pre-made cocktail mixers. They're often overly sweet and made with ingredients like high fructose corn syrup and artificial dyes. However, I recently discovered a line of cocktail mixers that are a little different — something I probably would never make myself.
Craft cocktails are booming, and brewing all kinds of tea remains popular — so it's not surprising that mixologists are using tea in cocktails. But now a couple of tea-drinking boozers have cut out the mixologist and created a tea that's crafted for cocktails for the home bar. Owl's Brew starts with fresh-brewed organic teas, adds organic agave for sweetness, and uses fruits, spices and herbs for added layers of flavor.
The result is a drink mixer with no artificial flavors or additives that has fewer calories than many other mixers. (The mixers rely on agave to sweeten, rather than sugar, resulting in fewer calories.) It's meant to be mixed with booze at a ratio of 2:1, or beer or wine at a ratio of 1:1.
I came across Owl's Brew at the American Whiskey Convention. The company had a booth at the convention, mixing its Pink & Black brew — a blend of Darjeeling, hibiscus, lemon peel and strawberry — with whiskey. I took my first sip with a big dose of skepticism and ended up surprised at how much I liked it.
But what I really wanted to know was how it would pair with gin, my spirit of choice. There wasn't any gin at the whiskey convention (go figure), so Owl's Brew offered to send me samples of five of their brews for me to experiment with at home.
After mixing a few cocktails, I found I enjoyed the White and Vine brew — white tea, pomegranate, lemon peel and watermelon — mixed with gin in a cocktail they call the The Botanist, which is two parts White and Vine, one part gin, and a squeeze of lime, shaken in an ice-filled shaker and poured into an ice-filled glass, topped with a little soda water. I enjoyed the boozy iced tea and can definitely see it being added to my rotation of warm-weather gin cocktails.
The different brews can be used in a variety of cocktails mixed with beer, wine, gin, vodka, whiskey, mezcal, tequila and more. There are dozens of recipes on the website, and the founders of Owl's Tale created a cocktail book with additional recipes.
Owl's Brew can be used to make a mocktail, too. It's concentrated so it needs to be mixed with something carbonated at a 1:1 ration like sparkling water — perhaps with some fresh fruit added.
I'm still a proponent of making my own cocktail mixers and controlling exactly what goes in them, but once in a while, it's nice just to be able to throw a couple of ingredients in a shaker and have something refreshing to serve in about a minute.
Owl's Brew is available on the company website, as well as Williams-Sonoma, Whole Foods and other stores across the country.