Author and former Gramercy Tavern managing partner Nick Mautone says he prefers a rich, smoky style of whiskey for these highballs, such as an Islay malt from Scotland like Laphroaig, or a robust single-cask Kentucky bourbon like Blanton’s. For the tea he uses a Lapsang Souchong for a deep, smoky flavor, but you can substitute any other black tea.
Game plan: The tea must be refrigerated for at least 3 hours before adding the remaining ingredients and serving, so plan accordingly.
1Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest from the oranges in wide strips, avoiding as much of the white pith as possible. Set half of the zest aside for steeping and refrigerate the remaining half in a zip-top bag or other airtight container for garnishing.
2Bring the water to a boil, remove from the heat, and add the loose tea or tea bags and the orange zest set aside for steeping. Let steep for 5 minutes. Pour through a fine-mesh strainer into a 3-quart heatproof container; discard the solids in the strainer. Refrigerate the tea until cold, at least 3 hours. Meanwhile make the mint syrup.
For the mint syrup:
1Place all of the ingredients in a small saucepan, stir to combine, and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the syrup has slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
2Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature, about 1 hour. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer set over a medium bowl; discard the solids. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
1When ready to serve, stir the Scotch or bourbon and half of the mint syrup (about 1 cup) into the tea. Taste and add more syrup as needed. Fill 8 highball glasses with ice and add several strips of the remaining orange zest to each glass. Pour the tea mixture over the ice, garnish with a sprig of mint, and serve.