by Eddy Colloton
Two of the cocktails I’m most proud of creating so far were both designed for our GoldenEye party in April. To be honest, my memory of how this all shook out is a bit fuzzy (likely due to the amount of liquor imbibed during our brainstorming sessions). I had watched Craig infuse liquors for our previous parties, notably for Underneath the Mango Tree, which ended up using both akee-infused rum and cocoa nib infused banana liqueur. I tried an orange peel infusion for our take on an Old Fashioned for the Live and Let Die party, but we ended up rejecting that idea (whiskey infusions are hard because whiskey tastes really good...and in something like an Old Fashioned, people want that taste...don’t fix what’s not broken).
My sister used to live in London, and she once brought me a sort of “sampler pack” of Fortnum & Mason loose leaf teas for Christmas. F & M is an over 300 year old company, famous for creating teas for the royal family (they're super English). Not being a big tea drinker, I would occasionally make a “cuppa” but, to be honest, these ornately packaged tins were sort of languishing on my kitchen counter for awhile. I noticed them one day and thought, “that tea is probably the most English thing in my apartment.” We were currently working on our The Living Daylights party, which we had initially intended to be a Russian-themed all-vodka extravaganza, so I thought I would try infusing some of the vodka I had purchased for that party with some of this incredibly British tea. I texted Craig about the idea and he sent me some pictures from the Death & Co book with tea infusion recipes. I googled some tea infusion recipes and I am really glad we sought inspiration from the D & C recipes instead. Some tea infusion recipes suggest leaving tea in booze overnight! Don’t bother. I have always done something like a half hour to an hour, more than enough.
I ended up trying Earl Grey tea with some Peach Street Vodka and Smoky Earl Grey with Rittenhouse Rye. I steeped each for about an hour with around a tablespoon of tea per 150-250 mL of booze. I loved the result and I don’t even like tea!
I was doing my homework, re-watching GoldenEye for the gazillionth time, this time with an eye out for some reference to tea or England that I could cop for a drink title. I remember considering naming the work in progress cocktail after Dame Judy Dench, or maybe calling it “For England James.” But then a line jumped out at me: when Bond first meets CIA Agent Wade (a character I loved as a kid… now, not so much), Wade calls him a “Stiff-Ass Brit.” After Wade eschews a spy film trope by dismissing their coded salutations, Bond sticks his Walther in the guy's ribs and insists he verify his identity. Once Bond is satisfied that Wade is who he says he is, Bond self-applies the insult, and introduces himself as “James Bond, Stiff-Ass Brit.”
Boom. Cocktail name.
My first attempts at making cocktails with these teas were pretty successful. A lot of the things that taste good in tea also taste good in booze. The tea isn’t so overpowering that the taste of the spirit disappears, so traditionally good combinations still hold up. Plus, I had recently purchased some Dolin Blanc, which I now love, and figured that would work very well with vodka (it does). The first two iterations of the Stiff-Ass Brit were a bit different from how it ended up:
- 2 oz Smoky Earl Grey Tea Whiskey
- 1/4 oz Goldschläger
Yeah, Goldschläger. Look, it’s for a gold themed party, it has gold in it. People like cinnamon in their black tea. I figured, why not? We didn’t use it. Mostly because that shit taste awful.
I believe we tried both of these at one of our Prep Nights (the party before the partyTM), and the vodka one was not surprisingly the crowd favorite. I remember Craig asking me to try it with Hayman's London Dry Gin since that would make the cocktail even more English. I initially opposed this idea, because I liked the simplicity of the vodka. But when we eventually tried the infusion with gin, it was way better.
I have always wanted this cocktail to be super simple, something that Craig strongly resisted. We tried a lot of different things with the gin version, adding Leopold Bros Fernet at one point, several different variations of bitters including Dram Lavender Lemon Balm, but ultimately we ended up just adding a bit of honey simple syrup to finish it off. While I was dragged kicking and screaming at most every point, I’m glad Craig continued to push me to add something else to this cocktail. I would have settled at the vodka incarnation of this drink and it would have suffered for it. You don’t know how to make the best of a cocktail idea until you’ve tried all the options (preferably not in one sitting).
The final recipe is as follows:
Recipe: Stiff-Ass Brit
Steep Fortnum and Mason Earl Grey tea in Hayman’s Royal Dock Gin for approximately 40 minutes, 1 tablespoon per 250 mL.
Make honey simple syrup by combining equal parts honey and hot water and shake vigorously till mixed thoroughly.
- 1 ½ oz Earl Grey Infused Gin
- ½ oz Dolin Blanc Vermouth
- ¼ oz Honey Simple Syrup
Stir, strain, and serve with expressed orange peel garnish. For an extra touch of “GoldenEye,” we added a dash of edible glitter to this drink.