When Red Star Tavern bartender Brandon Lockman names his cocktail creations, he says the titling of the drinks usually involve a historical search. “I wanted to do a tea-based cocktail for winter, different from the Hot Toddy direction, and research pointed me in the direction of whiskey being a good partner,” he says about his tea-and-cider cocktail, Shen Hong’s Elixir. “I stumbled upon the origins of tea being credited to Shen Nong (or Shennong), a mythical Chinese emperor. He is generally looked upon as the father of Chinese medicine, and apparently died of a toxic herb overdose while experimenting.”
Avoiding the dangers of a potential tea overdose, the Portland, Oregon, bar’s lead mixologist added cider to his elixir. “The addition of apples — a softer sweetener — eventually fell into place because they allow the tea and whiskey to take centerstage,” he adds. “I’ve worked with apple and whiskey before and like how they complement each other without one overwhelming the other. When you add enough tea, it stretches the two out — creating a nice, soft harmony. One flavor doesn’t stand out or overpower the rest.”
In this recipe, Lockman says the cider enhances the overall drink, doubling down on the apple flavor and a tad more alcohol. “Ciders are becoming more and more flavorful, though sometimes they get a reputation of being too sweet,” he says about using cider in mixed drinks. “So, using it as a cocktail ingredient just made sense.”
He recommends using a dry cider for this libation, featuring fellow Oregonian Double Mountain Brewery’s Dry cider behind his bar. A ferment of Newtown Pippins and other cider-centric apple varieties grown on the producer’s estate orchard in the Hood River Valley, Double Mountain’s cider is aromatic and dry, melding with the floral components of the jasmine green tea and vanilla of the bourbon.
Shen Nong’s Elixir
Makes 1 cocktail
1½ ounces steeped jasmine tea
1 ounce bourbon
½ ounce agave syrup
1 ounce Double Mountain Brewery Dry
Garnish: apple wheel
In a mixing tin, shake the first three ingredients with ice and strain into a tall glass. Top with the cider and stir to incorporate. Garnish with an apple wheel.