The search for the perfect toddy is never-ending, but there may be a new standard-bearer thanks to Shawn Chen’s Chinese-Irish fusion: the Chit Cha Toddy.
Chen is the beverage director for New York City’s RedFarm restaurant, which has garnered years of praise for its inventive Chinese cuisine. “My inspiration for this cocktail came from the traditional Chinese tea ceremony,” Chen says, “so I wanted to create a cocktail honoring teas and my culture.”
The name comes from an aspect of traditional tea service. “There are many ways to express serving tea to someone in Chinese,” Chen explains. “For example, ‘Pao-cha’ is to brew fresh tea, ‘Dao-cha’ is to pour tea for someone, but the most respectful way is ‘chi-cha’, which is to serve someone tea.”
Over the years Chen has served this toddy with rye and other whiskeys but elected to go Irish for us to sample. “I decided to pair this hot toddy with Slane Irish Whiskey. It creates a nice level of complexity due to its triple casking, and finishes clean allowing it to play well with the rest of the ingredients.”
The combination is excellent: it highlights Slane’s sherry-influenced character but still manages just the right touch of spice thanks to a bit of ginger syrup. And we can vouch that it’s a real lifesaver in the midst of a cold.
The ingredients for Chen’s final beverage are specific, but there’s plenty of wiggle room if you want to use what you have at home. “As long as you have the basics for a hot toddy (lemon, honey, hot water, whiskey),” says Chen, “all the other ingredients can be substituted based on personal preferences and what you have available at hand.”
Chit Cha Toddy by Shawn Chen (RedFarm)
3/4 oz. Slane Irish Whiskey
1/4 oz. Bénédictine D.O.M. Liqueur
1/4 oz. house-made ginger syrup
1/4 oz. lemon juice
1/4 oz. blossom honey
3 1/2 oz. hot Osmanthus Oolong tea
Combine all ingredients in a Gaiwan glass teacup. Garnish with a half lemon wheel studded with three cloves, one mint sprig, and cinnamon powder.
For the ginger syrup, make a simple syrup (simmer one part sugar, one part water in a pot until all the sugar is dissolved) with grated fresh ginger, then strain.