Review: Zen Green Tea Liqueur

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

zen green tea liqueur Review: Zen Green Tea Liqueur

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2 Responses to Review: Zen Green Tea Liqueur

  1. I think the Green Tea liqueur is a neat idea and this implementation is pretty good. It is, however, terribly overpriced.

    I “discovered” it at one of Cape Cod’s premier restaurants – The Lobster Pot in Provincetown. The Lobster Pot is one of my favorite restaurants in the world.

    The Lobster Pot places “Green Tea and Ginger Martini” at the very top of their Specialty Drinks list. [http://www.ptownlobsterpot.com/content/pages/2008Wine.pdf] They describe it as “Zen Green Tea Liquor, ginger-green tea infused Absolut.” This is a tiny bit different from what I was served there several months ago. That day they clearly used the Zen liqueur. The vodka was indeed “infused” with green tea and had an interesting flavor. The green-tea infused vodka + the Zen liqueur combination honestly had a strong green tea taste. I liked it.

    The “ginger” part of the drink was cool… They had candied slices of ginger root speared with a cocktail toothpick sitting in the glass instead of an olive or whatever else one might find in a martini. Strong green-tea infused Absolute, Zen green tea sugar syrup liqueur plus a large slice of very edible, very strong tasting ginger candy made for an excellent combo. Really good stuff!

    I finally found the liqueur at the local liquor store and picked up a bottle. At $32 it is terribly overpriced.

    After a bit of fooling around, largely based on your blog post here, the drink that I’ve decided “works” is a “Green Russian.” 2 shots Absolut Vanilla, 2 shots Zen Green Tea Liqueur, plus milk and ice to taste. We drink Lactaid milk in our household which is a bit thicker and sweeter than normal milk, imo. The Green Russian is tasty. As you pointed out, however, it really is a dessert drink. I predict that I won’t be making another until I’m at a Christmas party somewhere this winter.

    Speaking of which… This was also the first time I tried Absolut Vanilla. I’m looking forward to poking around your blog and seeing what suggestions you have for that tasty treat.

  2. If you ask me the best way is to drink Japanese teas like sencha, macha…

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