Green tea isn’t a flavor that most mixologists look to for creating cocktails, but Zen green tea liqueur is nonetheless an intriguing option for making something a little off the beaten path.
Bottled at 40 proof, Zen is a shade of green that I’ve never seen in a cup of tea. The color is perhaps closer to those neon-hued children’s fruit snacks than anything else.
I’m not entirely sure what Zen is made from. The company says it’s a “blend of specially selected Kyoto green tea leaves, premium herbs, and natural flavors.” I find it hard to believe there’s not some serious artificial coloring going on, but you can decide for yourself.
In the glass and on the rocks, Zen is overpowering. Extremely sweet, you’d have to be a hardcore sugar junkie to drink Zen on its own. Rather, Zen works somewhat better as a mixer. In fact, you might best consider it as an alternative to sugar syrup or other sweetening agents in a cocktail recipe. Try subbing it in for syrup in your favorite recipe and see how it goes. Not everything is going to be a hit, but you might just find something inspired.
I tried Zen in a variety of cocktails, including ones the company recommends. Zen was lost when mixed with Zipang sparkling sake, but it paired very well with standard tonic, which balanced out the sweetness with its healthy punch of bitterness. Zen is also a natural for dessert drinks: One concoction of 2 oz. Zen, 1 oz. vanilla vodka, and 2 oz. milk (shaken with ice and strained) was quite sweet, but offered a pleasant flavor that ultimately outweighed the pale, lime green color that resulted in the glass. Savory drinks are tougher: The expected Zen martini (Zen, vodka, lime juice) didn’t work for me; maybe with just a splash of Zen it could be workable.
So, some hits and misses, but I will say one thing: Zen does offer a new and innovative way beyond Green Chartreuse and Apple Pucker of getting the color green into a cocktail.
B- / $30 / suntory.com/zen