The quintessential beverage for the hottest of days is the iced tea. Typically a simple drink, black tea with cubes of ice and a lemon wedge, iced tea has been an American staple for more than a hundred years at lunch, the golf course, and at your grandma’s house.
Leave it to the innovative flair of Miami’s favorite mixology duo to make iced tea inexplicably cool again. Gabriel Orta and Elad Zvi of Bar Lab were tasked with doing so for Amir Ben Zion’s new South Street Restaurant & Bar, which is set to open in the former Sra. Martinez space in the Design District by late-September. Unlike the previous set-up, the bar will now be positioned downstairs as the centerpiece of the restaurant.
The foundation of the entire cocktail menu is homemade tea, Orta’s current obsession. This is a preview of a list that you won’t be able to find anywhere else in Miami. He says it’ll feature vibrant versions of classic cocktails that complement the food on the funky and fresh neo-soul menu created by Philadelphia-native Amaris Jones.
There’s a variation of the old-school Crusta, a pre-Prohibition cocktail with brandy/cognac, orange liqueur and lemon juice. It’s actually one of the few cocktails you garnish before finishing the drink. At South Street, Bar Lab’s recipe will include homemade tea to play off the dryness of the cocktail, while ensuring it pairs well with the savory dishes.
At home, Orta experiments with exotic samples of loose tea to perfect all of his recipes. He’s fascinated by their antioxidant and antibacterial properties, as well as their dynamic flavors. His favorite right now is a blood orange tea that mixes Moroccan leaves with dehydrated blood oranges from Spain and Italy.
“There’s a huge demand for interesting drinks right now. The demand is bigger than it’s ever been in Miami and this project is the perfect way for us to share our creativity in a focused way,” said Orta.
Another notable cocktail will be an iced tea version of the gin-based Pimm’s Cup (think double thirst-quencher), made with the blood orange tea mentioned above, lemon verbena, herbs and spices.
You’ll be able to order these drinks and others by the glass or in traditional pitchers to share.
With cocktails featuring reductions and syrups made with tea, things may get complicated. Not to fret, you’ll find Orta and Zvi overseeing South Street’s bar and training the staff to make sure every drink is served just right. Just like your hip grandma would want it in her heyday.
– Galena Mosovich is the lead writer for cocktail culture for Miami.com.