Matcha flavored sweets are pretty popular in Japan. As I'm a great fan of it myself, I want to explore this popular Japanese ingredient and give you some nice recipes to try for yourself. Including how to make a fine matcha liqueur and syrup.
A Brief Introduction To Matcha
Matcha meaning "powdered tea" in Japanese is a special kind of green tea. The leaves are grown in the shade which means they grow more slowly, thus producing more chlorophyll. This is the reason why matcha has such a vibrant green color. The amount of time the tea spends in the shade, the region it comes from and other factors determine what grade the final matcha will have, with "ceremonial grade" being the highest.
After the tea is harvested (either by hand or by machine) it is then ground up into a fine powder. To make a tea just combine the matcha powder with hot water and whisk with a chasen. Which means that unlike regular tea you ingest the tea leaves which also means drinking matcha offers some health benefits. This also suggests that you ingest the pollution that the tea has been exposed to which is why I would avoid matcha from China and buy purely Japanese instead.
Thanks to the internet and global distribution you should have no problems getting some good quality matcha, whether it be cooking or ceremonial grade. Most people that have tasted matcha probably know the coocking grade, since this is the powder that produces super sweet drinks like the Green Tea Crème Frappuccino® offered by Starbucks. The taste of these drinks has of course not much to do with the real flavor and if you never had a bowl of perfectly made ceremonial grade matcha I urge you to try it. The dry and sometimes slightly bitter flavor has such a refreshing grassy taste that it accompanies sweets perfectly.
Of course using the high grade powder for cocktails can be expensive and I'd suggest using the cooking grade in syrups and liqueurs. Maybe use the higher grade when making some truly exceptional drinks without large amounts of sugar. But as always it's best to test and taste it for yourself and choose the one you like. But before I go and create some cocktail recipes I'd like to share the recipes for making my matcha liqueur and syrup which I use in some of them.
Making Matcha Liqueur
Making something with matcha is really quite simple. Just like when preparing a tea with matcha, you have to make sure everything dissolves properly. I used a recipe which I found online and adjusted the amount so you get a bit less than 500ml.
- 400ml Good Quality Vodka (40% ABV)
- 90g Rock Candy
- 2 Tablespoons Matcha Powder
Put everything into a big enough glass and shake really hard. Let it sit for about a week and shake daily. After a week fine strain the liqueur into a clean bottle to get rid of any bits of matcha that haven't dissolved.
The original recipe calls for "white liquor" which I guess means shochu. It isn't as strong as vodka (usually around 30-35% ABV) and has a distinct flavor, so results may vary. But if you use vodka, you will have a pretty easy to obtain ingredient which won't alter the taste of the matcha much.
If you decide to go the shochu route then consider that there are many different varieties (sweet potato, barley, rice, etc.), which means that the final liqueur will strongly depend on the chosen base spirit. Obviously different types of matcha can change the result even more, so it comes down to finding a winning combination.
Making Matcha Syrup
Making matcha syrup is as easy and fast as making simple syrup. I recommend making it in small batches and using it up before the flavor is lost. Since the result is a sweet syrup don't bother with anything other that cooking grade matcha.
- 100ml Water
- 100ml Sugar (use rock candy if you want)
- 2 to 3 Tablespoons Matcha Powder (Cooking Grade)
Combine the water and sugar over a medium heat until clear. If the simple syrup is too hot let it cool down to below 60°C (140°F) and add the matcha powder. Combine with a whisk, making sure there are no lumps of powder. Then pour the syrup into a sterilized bottle and store in the fridge.
Always make small batches since the flavor disappears over time. You can use it in desserts if you like, but incorporating it into cocktails, like my Mukashinagara, can yield great results. Be aware that matcha has a strong flavor and the syrup can easily overpower other more subtle ingredients.
Magnificent Matcha Mixtures
The first thing I wanted to do was to create a cocktail where matcha is the main flavor. So there were two obvious choices: A Martini style drink and a Sour. Both worked really well. Which is why I want to share both recipes.
Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir for 15 to 20 seconds, then strain into a pre-chilled Martini glass.
The sweet matcha liqueur and the dry vermouth combine well to form a slightly sweet drink, that brings out the full matcha flavor. If you want it a bit more dry and less sweet then shift the liqueur to vermouth ratio. But it's important not to use too much vermouth or the taste will overwhelm the matcha liqueur very easily. The orange bitters help to combine the vermouth and liqueur; omitting them will produce a cocktail with more edges and a stronger vermouth character. It is worth a try.
If you want to experiment with orange, lemon or other zests be very careful. When I made this drink without the bitters and added some lemon zest, the whole cocktail became overpowered with citrus. I could hardly taste the matcha. The ratio of liqueur to vermouth might also depend on what matcha is used in the liqueur. A more dominant matcha can surely handle more vermouth to produce a dryer cocktail.
- 60ml Matcha Liqueur
- 20ml Lime Juice
- 10ml Simple Syrup
Add all the ingredients to a shaker filled with ice and shake vigorously for 10 to 15 seconds. Strain (fine strain if you don't like ice chips) into an Old Fashioned glass filled with ice.
A refreshing cocktail using the time tested sour formula. I used a bit less syrup, since there is already sugar in the liqueur. This cocktail has a sweeter, but fresher flavor profile than my Matcha Martini. Adjust the amount of lime juice according to the taste of your limes. The ones I used were pretty sweet and strong, so I used a bit less than normal.
My favorite way to prepare this drink (as well as a Daiquiri) is to shake really hard so that you have tiny ice chips in your finished drink. It gives a really nice mouthfeel. The tiny is important here, otherwise the texture will be too rough. If you don't like ice chips you can always fine strain or shake more gently.
For an even more exotic drink you can substitute the lime for yuzu. Be careful with the amount of juice though, since I found the flavor will overpower the cocktail really fast. I recommend only half the amount of juice.
Matcha Mint Juleps
- 60ml Bourbon
- 30ml Simple Syrup
- 1 Teaspoon Matcha
- A Splash Of Hot Water (about 65°C/149°F)
- 10 Fresh Mint Leaves
Add the mint leaves and 15ml simple syrup to a julep cup and muddle gently to release the flavor. Add the matcha to a bowl and splash the hot water over it. Whisk until dissolved. Just use enough water for it to become a thick matcha fluid; it is best to add the water bit by bit. Fill the julep cup with crushed ice, then add the bourbon and matcha. Top with more crushed ice, pour over 15ml of simple syrup and garnish with a mint sprig.
Adapted from The Bojon Gourmet: Matcha Mint Juleps
As I read the recipe on The Bojon Gourmet, I knew I had to bring it closer to the classic Julep. Besides making the recipe a bit easier to prepare, I also used hot water to bring out the matcha flavors better. Sadly I don't own any Julep cups yet, so I used a regular glass (shows off the nice color though).
I used a strong bourbon (Blanton's Straight From The Barrel) as I like something that dominates the ice and sugar. It was a good choice for me as the bourbon still plays the main part. It is accompanied with a nice subtle matcha flavor, which, together with the bourbon, is almost coffee like. If you use a lower proof bourbon the matcha will be a bit more dominant.
I don't know how well the drink will be when you substitute the matcha and simple syrup for matcha syrup. I haven't tried it yet so it might be worth a shot. It all depends on the bourbon though, so feel free to experiment and leave some feedback if you do.
- 60ml Ron Mulata Anejo Blanco
- 30ml Lime Juice
- 15ml Simple Syrup
- ½ Teaspoon Matcha Powder
- 10 Mint Leaves
- Soda or Mineral Water
Drop the mint into a highball glass and add the simple syrup. Lightly muddle the mint to release the fragrance. Combine the other ingredients, except the soda water, in a shaker, fill with ice and shake for 15 seconds. Fine strain to get rid of any ice chips and not dissolved matcha bits, fill with ice, stir briefly and top up with soda or mineral water.
The Mojito is a well received cocktail, especially in the summer. It delivers the much needed refreshment during the hot temperatures. So adding a new dimension sounded like a good idea. Also some caffeine from the green tea will give you the much needed energy during hot nights.
The result is a wonderfully light green summer cocktail. A nicely balance between rum, matcha and lime juice is the first taste you get. After that you notice the mint as a pleasant surprise. Mint and matcha go really well together and give this classic cocktail a new spin while keeping the refreshing spirit of the original.
You can make this with matcha syrup, but then I'd suggest using a little bit more syrup to get more matcha flavor. When using the syrup you can build it like a classic Mojito which means you can omit the shaking. Shaking is only needed to dissolve the matcha powder properly.
As you can see matcha plays well together with lots of different flavors and it pays off to explore the possibilities. It is an ingredient on the rise and as there are many different varieties, you can spend a lot of time exploring the world of matcha. Start with taste testing different matchas and then just experiment with making cocktails or ingredients. My next goal is to make some matcha bitters. What about you? Leave some comments and share some ideas or recipes.
Title image via pixabay.