Vodka Martini with a Twist

The Vodka Martini is the cocktail most people know as the drink James Bond orders when he walks up to the bar. “Shaken, not stirred” is inextricably linked to this relatively young classic cocktail recipe. The original recipe dates back to the 1950′s and consists of two ingredients; vodka and French vermouth.  Since then this cocktail has been served in many different ways. Shaken or stirred, with a twist, with an olive or an onion (Gibson), dry, medium dry or Churchill dry, just pick your favorite vodka and you can mix yourself a great appetizer.


90 ml Vodka

10 ml Noilly Prat

Add both ingredients to an ice-filled cocktail shaker, shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Strain and fine-strain into a pre-chilled Martiniglass. Garnish with an olive or a lemon twist.


Recently I took part in a cocktail competition. Ketel One, a vodka crafted by the famous Nolet Distilleries, challenged 45 bartenders from Holland, United Kingdom and Israel to create new cocktails inspired by their vodka. Three teams competed in three different categories to decide which country would take the trophy home. In the category “A classic with a twist” it was my task to create a twist on the Vodka Martini.

To me the vodka martini has always been the start of a good dinner. I know exactly how I like mine, and one or two of them at the bar before I go to my table is a ritual that has often  proved to be a perfect start of the evening. The drink is beautiful as it is, so I wanted to give the new recipe just a subtle touch.  That subtle touch was going to be tea.  The base spirit, Ketel one, is characterized by hints of citrus and honey, so I chose a tea that would match those specific notes. The Seasonal Flush from the Uva Highlands, hand-picked in the morning of the 9th of August 2011, is a complex rare tea with citrus and grassy notes that match the notes in the vodka perfectly. After a three minute brew  you get a spectacular tea. But instead of using the infusion, I was going to use the infused leaves and drink the tea myself. I filled a fine-strainer with the infused leaves, and after creating the cocktail as described below I strained it through the fine-strainer into the glass. The result was a very elegant twist with a smooth balance between tea, vodka, bitters and vermouth. Since the Seasonal Flush is a rare tea I can recommend Dilmah’s Earl Grey as a good alternative.


80 ml Ketel One Vodka

15 ml Noilly Prat

3 dashes of orange bitters

infused tea leaves

zest of orange

Fill a mixer glass with ice, add the Noilly Prat and stir for 30 seconds. Strain the mixer glass and add some extra ice cubes. Add the bitters and the vodka and stir for 30 seconds. Fill a fine-strainer with the infused tea leaves and strain the drink through the fine-strainer into a pre-chilled martini glass. Garnish with an orange zest.


After 5  hours, 3 categories, 45 cocktails  and an unknown number vodka shots the team from the U.K. took home the trophy. Watching all these bartenders from different countries, cultures and bars work is a great source of inspiration. Everyone brings along their own products and techniques and bartenders are eager to learn get inspired by others. Many were pleasantly surprised about the way I use tea in cocktails and succeeded in inspiring other bartenders to look at tea in a different way.  There’s great potential for tea in cocktails and it’s becoming an increasingly popular ingredient in competitions. Try the recipe yourself, or let your local bartender fix one for you, and get a little inspiration yourself. Cheers!

Not your average cup of tea


Mixing Tea


One of the nicest things about cocktail bartending is  the creation of new flavour combinations. Mixing different spirits, liqueurs, fruits, bitters, juices and syrups and coming up with that well-balanced drink to perfectly match your guest is a talent every serious bartender nourishes. Everyone has a different taste, and finding the right ingredients to create a personal drink is the professional challenge for any proud bartender. I’ve always used a great variety of juices, soda’s, wines, beers and coffees in my drinks, but it took a while before I discovered tea as a cocktail ingredient. I’ve been drinking tea all my life, but never before I looked at it from a cocktail angle. The transformation from being my morning ritual to being my appetizer or my drink in a club was a quick one. After mixing Dilmah Earl Grey and Tanqueray no. Ten I immediately recognized the potential of tea in cocktails.

  • 50 ml chilled Dilmah Earl Grey
  • 40 ml Tanquery no. Ten Gin
  • 10 ml Lavender syrup
  • 3 dashes of orange bitters
  • Shake all ingredients in an ice-filled shaker for 10 seconds and strain into a pre-chilled martini glas

It’s been five years since that moment and in the meantime I’ve learned a great deal about tea. I’ve enjoyed many different tea’s since then and a visit to the tea gardens gave my creativity  another boost. The immense variety in character and aroma, and the many perfect matches with all sorts of ingredients, has proven to be an endless source of inspiration. I’ve made Martini’s, Margerita’s, Punches, Coolers, Sours, Old-fashioneds, Blazers, Fizz’s and Daiquiri’s, all tea-based. Jasmine green tea, grapefruit bitters and orange syrup or First Ceylon Souchon, Johnnie Walker Gold label and  cinnamon syrup are combinations that would shine on any cocktail menu.

  • 90 ml chilled Dilmah Green tea with jasmine (strong brew)
  • 10 ml orange syrup
  • 3 dashes grapefruitbitters
  • Stir all ingredients for 30 seconds in an ice-filled mixer glass.
  • Strain into a pre-chilled coupe glas.Garnish with an orange zest.

But it doesn’t take a professional bartender to come up with your own personal drink. You can start in your own kitchen right now. Brew your favorite tea and dissolve two tea spoons of your favorite jam or marmalade in it.  Add a slice of fresh ginger and serve the drink over ice. It’s an easy start of something that can grow into your signature drink. The drink that defines you and your taste, that you will hopefully share with others.

Tea Sommelier Competition at Horeca Kuwait

My first time in Kuwait started with a big miscalculation. After a pleasant flight from Amsterdam to Dubai, and a little less pleasant connecting flight to Kuwait we approached the airport as the intercom in the of the Airbus 330 informed us about the weather conditions on the ground. “A clear sky, almost no wind and a temperature of 4 degrees Celsius”, said the Captain as we’re preparing for landing. Working in bars and nightclubs for years caused a small hearing problem for me, so I thought I misunderstood the information and asked the person next to me to repeat the captain words, and again, to my stunning surprise, I found out it was actually 4 degrees Celsius. I’ve been having cold, wet and windy weather conditions in Amsterdam for months now and I was looking forward to spending a few hot days in the desert, but I quickly learned the desert is not just hot.
I’ve been asked to come to Kuwait to judge the first Tea Sommelier competition at the Horeca Kuwait 2012 and to do tea presentations at some of Kuwait’s finest hotels. For the competition ten candidates from various hotels, resorts and restaurants all prepared a hot tea mocktail, a cold tea mocktail and a traditional tea presentation for head judge Dilhan Fernando and myself. Since this was the first time ever for such a competition to be organized in Kuwait I was anxious to find out what inspired them to make their drinks. I know from past experience, I competed in the first Tea Sommelier competition in the Netherlands, that it’s very hard to prepare your drinks without have any references from past competitions. Most candidates had two things in common, lots of nerves and great enthusiasm. We started with Regie Tubana from Hard Rock Café. With a “rock on” attitude and some flair tricks he kicked off what would prove to be a promising contest. Elaj Surastha from the Crown Plaza presented his ”Nepali Chai”, Ceylon Supreme with grinded black pepper, cardamom, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon. Carolyn Enrique Lustre from the Holiday Inn came up with a combination of Moroccan Mint tea, lemon, lime, cranberry juice and sugar syrup. Michael Vosotros, also from Holiday Inn, shaked a cocktail with chamomile, lemon, orange, lime and granulated sugar. The very skilled Maria Theresa Jacinto from the Hilton prepared her version of bubble tea using Vanilla tea and tapioca pearls.
In little over two hours we tasted 30 drinks and although all the contestants came up with at least one very good drink, only one of them prepared a great drink in all three categories. From Missoni Hotel, Marta di Laura came up with three beautiful drinks. Her hot tea mocktail was a well-balanced mix of Chamomile and Brilliant Breakfast tea, sweetened with a home-made basil syrup and vanilla seeds. Her cold tea mocktail was a blended drink made with Earl Grey, fresh strawberries, pineapple, orange and lemon, and for the traditional tea presentation she flawlessly presented Young Hyson green tea with a professional tea taster set. Not just taste-wise, but also the way her drinks were garnished and prepared impressed the jury. To her own surprise she won this competition, and the trip to the next Dilmah School of Tea in Sri Lanka where she will, as well as runner-up Carolyn Lustre, get the chance to dig deeper into the world of real tea.
A competition like this one is always full of inspiration. Different professionals working with passion, trying to create new drinks. Everyone is mixing their own taste and style with their preferred teas. This was the first competition in Kuwait and I was surprised about the level of most of the contestants. There’s still a lot to learn about tea for most people, but some of the drinks were made with professional precision regarding brewing time and measurements. I hope this competition stimulates a different way of looking at tea.
I congratulate the team from MNH in Kuwait with a successful first Dilmah Tea Sommelier Competition. Their enthusiasm resulted in an inspiring contest that I hope will continue for years. Spreading knowledge, creativity and respect for tea will allow more Horeca professionals to improve their skills and senses for hospitality and at the same time learn about a true story of quality. And in a country where no alcohol is served, sophisticated tea mocktail have a fantastic future.

Dilmah Blazer

Ceylon Old-Fashioned

40 ml First Ceylon Souchong Tea, chilled (3,5 minute brew)
40 ml Johnnie Walker Gold Label
15 ml Cinnamon & Orange syrup
dash of orange bitters.

Glass: old-fashioned or tumbler

Put 2 ice cubes, the syrup and the bitters in the glass and stir for 20 seconds
Add 2 ice cubes and 10 ml JW Gold Label and stir for 20 seconds
repeat previous 3 times.
Add the First Ceylon Souchong and stir another 20 seconds
Garnish with an orange zest & a cinnamon stick

Somerset Estate Martini

40 ml Somerset Estate Seasonal Flush, chilled (3,5 minute brew)
40 ml Ciroc Vodka
15 ml Lime & Orange syrup

Glass: Martini

Add all ingredients to a mixer glass and stir for at least a minute
Strain into a pre-chilled martini-glass.
Garnish with two leaves and a bud

Dilmah Blazer

100 ml Prince of Kandy Tea, hot (4 minute brew)
80 ml Remy Martin VSOP
2 scoops of fine white sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2 zests of orange
2 zests of lemon

Glass: Snifter or Cognac bowl

Divide the tea over two snifters and add an orange zest and a lemon zest to each glass.
Put the cognac in a blazer can and light the fluid.
Add sugar to the burning cognac and stir gently.
Add the cinnamon and the cloves.
Blaze the fluid
Pour and divide the fluid over the two glasses.
No garnish

Pearl Grey

50 ml Dilmah Earl Grey Tea, chilled
20 ml Lavender syrup
10 ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
15 ml biological apple juice
dash pasteurized egg-white

Glass: Coupe


Add all ingredients to a Boston shaker and shake hard for 15 seconds.
Strain into a pre-chilled coupe glass.
Garnish with lavender string and some Earl Grey Tea