Cocktails from the Office Coffee Bar: Build-A-Bar and the Nature of Inspiration

I don't drink at work. Let's get that out of the way right off the bat. I never know who reads this thing, after all. I do, however, drink an awful lot of coffee. I split my time between making coffee I want to drink (I love my Aeropress and Hario hand grinder) and coffee I need to drink (I loathe the demonspawn, coffee-simulacra -- does the fact that they're called "pods" make anyone else think Invasion of the Coffee Snatchers? -- Keurig stuff). I call the Keurig cups "maintenance coffee," and drink it because it is fast, free and caffeinated. Over time, I've established a firm hierarchy of preference, a list of those heinous plastic tubs that I find least objectionable. Surprisingly, the Chai Tea pod is near the top of this list.

Let's be clear about this right from the start. It's not good. It's not objectionable, though, and provides me with a sort of slow-drip caffeine stream when I don't want to be bombarded, or when my stomach simply can't handle another cup of Dark Magic. Occasionally, I mix the chai with one of the coffee pods for a sad version of the "dirty chai." Once I accidentally mixed it with grapefruit juice, and a cocktail was born.

The Darjeeling Limited

2 oz. Rye 1 oz. Grapefruit Juice .5 oz. Chai Concentrate 1 Egg White

Combine all ingredients in a shaker, fill with ice and shake for as long as you can stand it. You want the egg to fully emulsify into the drink, developing a luxurious body and a thick, creamy head. Strain into a coupe glass. No garnish is necessary, but if you want to be fancy, a mist of bitters, as in a Pisco Sour, would be a nice touch.

To be perfectly honest, I'm not fully satisfied with this one. I think the general concept is good, but want to tweak it a bit. For starters, I don't think that the chai concentrate is really the best way to go. I did that because I'm lazy and it was easy. Not much easier than making chai-infused simple syrup, but hey. So that's the first thing I'm going to change. It will give me more control over the strength and character of the chai element. Second, I'm going to mess around with other base spirits. This is essentially a sour, so the possibilities are as wide open as the liquor cabinet. I'm thinking gin will work nicely with the grapefruit, and I kind of dig the colonial overtones. The egg, I'm keeping. I like the texture it gives, creating a creaminess that speaks to the chai element in the drink.

I find it occasionally difficult to find inspiration, and find it constantly interesting when it pops up. As with this drink, it's not always in the most expected of places. While my current fascination with seedy "tomato jelly" as a cocktail ingredient (inspired by Chris Frankel's use of chia seeds over at Cuchara) comes as no surprise, I never really expected to be struck with a cocktail idea while just trying to stay awake at work.

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Nicholas L. Hall is a husband and father who earns his keep playing a video game that controls the U.S. power grid. He also writes for the Houston Press about food, booze and music, in an attempt to keep the demons at bay. When he's not busy keeping your lights on, he can usually be found making various messes in the kitchen, with apologies to his wife.
Contact: Nicholas L. Hall