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Welcome to Wonkette Happy Hour, With This Week's Cocktail, The Professor Elemental!
A deeply British cocktail for the master of chap-hop.
Greetings, Wonketeers! I’m Hooper, your bartender. When I was researching the Pimm’s Cup, I found a reference to The Most British Cocktail Imaginable — something involving gin, tea, Pimm’s, and tonic. I decided to take up the challenge and make my own version of this Anglomaniac drink. I was so pleased with the end result that I asked one of my favorite British artists, the ever-effervescent Professor Elemental, if I could name the drink after him. I’m sure that both the Professor and you, gentle reader, will approve. Here’s the recipe:
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2 oz Hendricks Gin
2 oz Earl Grey Tea Syrup
1 oz fresh lemon juice
1 oz Pimms #1
Fever-Tree tonic water
Shake all ingredients except the tonic water over ice and strain into an old fashioned glass. Top with tonic water to taste. Garnish with a lemon wheel.
Earl Grey Tea Syrup
1/4 c strong Earl Grey tea, freshly brewed
1/4 c sugar
Add sugar to hot tea and stir until completely dissolved. Let cool completely, or just to drinkable temperature if you’re impatient.
I’ve had a soft spot in my heart for Professor Elemental for years. The chap-hop movement, an unlikely mixture of hip-hop and Victoriana, is wonderful and enthusiastically weird. I listened to the good Professor’s classic hit, “I’m British,” several times before tackling this cocktail. The Professor is, in my opinion, a model of inclusion, whimsy, and flat-out joy. I consider him to be the most British person possible. Nicola’s absolutely lovely recipe for scones last week convinced me that it was time for this ridiculously Anglophiliac cocktail to make its way into your hands.
However, my first efforts weren’t as tasty as I’d hoped. Initially, I thought this would be a mishmash of every British ingredient I could lay hands on — tonic, tea, Pimm’s, and Beefeater gin. There is a school of thought when crafting cocktails that goes “Take everything you like, cram it into a glass, and give it to the customer.” However, things didn’t go as well as I’d expected. I do love Beefeater, but it is undeniably crisp and rigid. Combined with Fever-Tree, my favorite dry tonic water, the end result was as bitter as a grapefruit rind. Not very cricket.
After some reflection, I realized that stoic Beefeater gin was out of place here. It’s the sort of old-school gin that finds its way into tiki drinks like the Saturn frequently. But my ingredient list was far too refined to tackle that grumpy old gin into submission. I took a cue from Professor Elemental and used the more whimsical Hendrick’s gin. I also decided to put the tea flavors front and center in the cocktail. A very small amount of tonic keeps the drink grounded, but Earl Grey and lemon are the prominent flavors in the glass. It barely qualifies as a gin and tonic now. Not the sort of drink that “saved more Englishmen's lives, and minds, than all the doctors in the Empire,” as Winston Churchill would have described it. Still, there’s something to be said for a Cup of Brown Joy to finish the weekend.
Strap on your Fighting Trousers and let’s talk ingredients:
Hendrick’s Gin: I consider Hendrick’s to be the first of the “new school” gins that eschew juniper berry in favor of gentler herbal and citrus notes. Ms. Leslie Grace, the head distiller at Hendrick’s, first crafted this cucumber and rose scented gin in 1988. It still has a passionate following today. A quick glance at the history of Hendrick’s gin confirms that this beverage and Professor Elemental are cut from the same cloth. Trying to force Beefeater into this drink, in retrospect, was like trying to cram an Irish wolfhound into the back seat of a Mini Cooper. Sorry. I’ll know better next time.
Earl Grey Tea Syrup: Equal parts double-strength hot Earl Grey tea and sugar, stirred until the sugar dissolves completely. No, you may not use Lipton. Hang your head in shame, sir.
Lemon Juice: I generally prefer lime juice as my acid component in any cocktail. However, lemon and tea are too good of a match to ignore. Fresh juice, as always, is best.
Pimms #1: The Pimm’s provides some orange citrus notes that cooperate with the bergamot in the tea very nicely, and it is absolutely amazing with the Hendrick’s. I’ll find another use for that combination down the road.
Fever-Tree Tonic Water: Be sparing — no more than a few ounces of tonic water here. Too much will mute the flavors of the drink behind a wall of bitter quinine. I’ll drink a bitter Fever-Tree and Beefeater G&T when I want to go conquer a subcontinent or some such. For easier days, moderation is called for.
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