Talk about an unlikely cocktail trend. Sure, everyone in the food world has gone crazy for matcha. But could that intensely earthy green tea powder possibly make a ceremonial-grade cocktail? Bartenders across the country are now jumping on the green bandwagon, but not just for the powder's vibrant color or its purported health benefits, rather to step up to the challenge of creating a delicious drink.
Location: 59 W. Hubbard Street, Chicago, IL
Bartender: Chef Doug Psaltis and staff
Cocktail: Matcha Bees Knees ($11) with matcha-infused yuzu bourbon, lemon and honey.
Chef Psaltis and general manager Amarit Dulyapaibul wanted to create a refreshing and approachable matcha cocktail since customers were often turned off from the powder's strong, earthy and bitter flavors. This variation of the classic Bee's Knees solved that problem.
Location: 201 E. 9 Mile Road, Ferndale, MI
Bartender: Ian Redmond
Cocktail: Koicha Matcha ($12) with Bols Genever, matcha powder, lemon, gomme, honey, ginger mate tea and egg white.
This spring drink matches the maltiness of the genever with the grassiness of the matcha. Lemon brightens both ingredients while honey and ginger "highlight the earthy flavors and give the drink balance," according to head bartender Redmond.
Location: 1634 N. Cahuenga Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA
Bartender: Gabriella Mylnarczyk
Cocktail: Unnamed cocktail ($13) with matcha, Thai basil vodka, peach and IPA.
According to Mylnarczyk, this libation is similar to a summery fruit punch. She says, "The matcha's delicate vegetal sweetness complements the peach but adds a dry, lightly tannic finish. Where other green teas would overpower the other flavors, the matcha balances all that fruit without bullying it into the background."
Location: 101 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA
Bartender: Vincent Anter
Cocktail: Matcha-Man Mai Tai ($14) with Matusalem Rum, matcha tea syrup, lime, coconut orgeat and a Mt. Gay Black Barrel float.
Drink maker Anter built this day-friendly Mai Tai to be enjoyed during brunch alongside coffee and tea. And since matcha drinks are usually made with alternative milks like soy and almond, he created a coconut orgeat: "It gives the cocktail what I like to call 'the X factor'—that subtle surprise for your taste buds."
Location: 8905 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood, CA
Bartender: Jason Eisner
Cocktail: Matcha Do About Nothing ($17) with tequila blanco, ceremonial-grade matcha, coconut milk, toasted sesame-infused agave tapioca pearls cured in a savory edamame syrup, housemade lime bitters and a cherry blossom garnish.
For bartender Eisner, Art of Tea's ceremonial-grade matcha, which tastes more like wheatgrass than green tea, served as "an incredible pairing with the high Brix Jalisco Tequila Blanco we use," he explains. It's the perfect backbone for this slightly savory, creamy adult boba cocktail.
Location: 11043 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA
Bartender: Jesse Duron
Cocktail: Cha-Sen ($10) with matcha, barley shochu, egg white, cream, lemon and simple syrup.
This cocktail was originally made with rice shochu but beverage director Duron switched to barley shochu aged in oak barrels to give it an earthier depth of flavor. There's also a discernable almond smokiness that pairs well with the matcha's earthiness.
Location: 927 S Broadway, Los Angeles, CA
Bartender: Michiko Torres
Cocktail: Midori Sour ($14) with Aylesbury Duck vodka, Midori, Green Chartreuse, lime, honey, egg white and Matcha tincture.
Downtown L.A.'s Ace Hotel bar has a whole menu of redone '80s drinks, including the often maligned Midori Sour. But the bar staff had trouble creating a palatable version of this verdant cocktail. "We kept finding it was just too sweet ... all saccharine on the finish," says beverage director Dan Sabo. But the tea provided the perfect tannic dry finish to cut the cocktail's notorious melon-y sweetness.
Location: 7465 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA
Bartender: Zachary Patterson
Cocktail: I Dream of Greenie ($14) with plum-infused El Silencio Mezcal, avocado, matcha green tea, lime and Licor 43.
Bartender Patterson's reasons for using matcha in his springtime cocktail are three-fold: 1) It balances out the sweetness of the fruit-infused mezcal, 2) like mezcal, whisking the ceremonial green tea is an art form, and 3) all the ingredients are green, from the avocado to the espadin mezcal aka "green agave."
Location: 1106B Saint Laurent, Montreal, Quebec
Bartender: Le Mal Nécessaire bar staff
Cocktail: Little Trouble in Big China ($10) with Bombay East, Aperol, a grenadine of Chicha Morada and drops of a salted Matcha tea.
To further ensure that guests are soothed (matcha possesses amino acid L-theanine, believed to relax the mind) while sipping this aromatic cocktail, the Mal team chose to add matcha as a salt.
Location: 296 Bleecker Street, 2nd floor, New York, NY
Bartender: Grant Wheeler
Cocktail: The First Lady ($14) with gin, Combier, matcha, lemon, egg white and fresh basil.
Beverage director Wheeler is crazy about matcha as a cocktail ingredient. He loves the powder's vibrant color, its "nice balance between a vegetal bitterness and a slight sweetness," and its rich, almost creamy texture. But in the First Lady cocktail it's all about how the London Dry gin's botanicals complement the sweet, vegetal and grassy matcha notes.
Location: 61 W 8th Street, New York, NY
Bartender: Cole Schaffer
Cocktail: Wakaba ($15) with Genmaicha (green tea with toasted rice), Woody Creek single-distilled potato vodka and lemon.
For bartender Schaffer, not just any green tea would do. He explains that matcha "adds a layer and depth of flavor that regular green tea doesn’t." And those earthy, toasty notes with sugar and fresh juice create a quaffable, refreshing cocktail.
Location: 214 6th Street, Pittsburgh, PA
Bartender: Täkō bar staff
Cocktail: Ramon's Gin Fizz ($10) with matcha-infused Tanqueray No. Ten, heavy cream, lemon juice, lime juice, demerara syrup, rose water, avocado and Jarritos mandarin soda.
The bar wanted to create a "healthy" version of the classic Ramos Gin Fizz and what better way than with avocado and the antioxidants of the green tea? "We really loved the way the matcha infused into the Tanqueray! Tea-infused spirits are fun to experiment with," says one of the drink collaborators, bartender Maggie Meskey.
Location: 3198 16th Street, San Francisco, CA
Bartender: Danny Louie
Cocktail: BK ($12) with shiso-infused Beefeater gin, matcha and lime.
Bartender Danny Louie likes to create drinks inspired by his employees. His matcha cocktail, the BK, is an ode to Chino bartender Brett Katusuyama. "He's Japanese and a very relaxed kinda guy. So, matcha is high in theanine, an amino acid that promotes relaxation," says Louie. The drink itself starts off refreshing and herbal, then finishes savory with the matcha green tea. Think: a more complex Gimlet.
Location: 65 Marion Street, Seattle, WA
Bartender: Nathanial Bradford
Cocktail: Matcha Mule ($7.50) with matcha-infused vodka, lime and Cock 'n Bull ginger beer.
Bartender Bradford was inspired to create the Matcha Mule thanks to a ginger ale mishap on a flight to Japan. His accident is everyone else's good fortune. "The ginger is sharp and biting and the matcha has that nice earthy tone and the contrast is great in glass together," states Bradford.