Beefeater Taps Into Green Tea Trend

A venerated gin distillery has tapped into the ongoing green tea trend for its latest release, Beefeater 24.

After 15 years of making Beefeater gin according to the recipe founder James Burrough pioneered back in the 1870s, master distiller Desmond Payne was given the go-ahead to mix up his own mess of botanicals to add to the mash bill's mandated juniper. The new gin he crafted is debuting on a state-by-state schedule, and goes on sale in Dallas next week.

"What I hope I've created is a modern classic," Payne says.

Befitting its status as a prospective classic, the spirit has already acquired a cloudy provenance: Beefeater's website explains Payne thought to use tea in the new gin after uncovering a 19th-century price list that belonged to Burrough's tea merchant father, but Payne claims inspiration first struck while he was traveling through Asia.

According to Payne, Japan's ban on quinine makes it nearly impossible to find a decent tonic there, so Payne started mixing his gin with tea. The recipe he ultimately developed calls for Japanese sencha, Chinese green tea, grapefruit and orange peels.

"As long as it's decent, honest and legal, you can put it in gin," Payne says.

Beefeater 24, which tastes soft and citrusy, won the best gin prize at the 2010 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

Payne says Beefeater may continue to play with recipes, releasing more flavored gins like the hibiscus, elderflower and black currant "summer edition" it rolled out this year. But he anticipates Beefeater 24 and Beefeater will stand as the distillery's signature brands.

"What I haven't done is change Beefeater's," stresses Payne, who shares his office with a portrait of Burrough. "If ever I'm tempted to put another scoop of coriander, there would be trouble."