Tea-infused booze is having a bit of a moment. Beer is being brewed with matcha; tea leaves are floating inside bottles of gin and vodka behind bars across the city; and even your dad’s beloved Arnold Palmer is getting an extra jolt of the hard stuff. But deep within the heart of the East Village’s Local 92 is a micro-speakeasy perfecting the art of the tea cocktail.
Mysterious allure aside, Blue Quarter has an all-star cast working behind its regal keyhole-arched doors. Two vital members of nearby gem Amor y Amargo run the show: beverage director Sother Teague and Max Green, who designed the jewel-box space and acts as co-owner and head bartender. Their scope for the globe-spanning menu was inspired by the tea traditions many of the world’s communities practice—Japan’s ceremonial presentations, high teas in the UK, and India’s chai wallahs serving blends in clay cups.
The selection at Blue Quarter may be in the single digits (nine cocktails in all), but every kind of tea preference is catered to. The stirring Unfinished Story was made for green tea lovers, incorporating tropical tones of coconut and lime into the thick tequila sipper, while floral notes are blooming within both the Rough Cut (a gin number with droplets of jasmine oleo) and Not My Presidenté (a refreshing mint iced tea spiked with white rum, blanc vermouth, and Aperol). They even allow the notorious Long Island Iced Tea to grow up with the addition of oolong—but you’ll still knock out on a Tompkins Square Park bench if you drink more than three of these.
The one drink that best embodies both Green’s vision and the power of the simple black tea leaf is the Dragoon Punch. Poured out of a vintage Moroccan teakettle, the libation sings a summery tune with hints of lemon acquired from a citrus-filled tagine. You almost won’t recognize the one-two punch of brandy and rum creeping into your system until you get up from the enchantingly tiled bar. Don’t be surprised if you spend your slumber imagining yourself in Marrakech after a few rounds.