Tea is becoming increasingly popular in cocktails, but Owl’s Brew is the first tea developed specifically for cocktails. Created by Jennie Ripps and Maria Littlefield, Owl’s Brew has seven different bottled tea blends, each crafted with mixology in mind. Recently, Ripps and Littlefield have taken the project further — collaborating with blended Scotch brand The Famous Grouse and their network of bartenders to create teas that perfectly suit the whisky. We talked with Ripps and Littlefield about Owl’s Brew and how their company is moving forward.
Tell us about the founding of Owl’s Brew — why did you decide to make a cocktail-focused tea blend? JR: Owl’s Brew is the sister company to Brew Lab Tea, which I started in 2011. My background is in tea blending and Brew Lab Tea specializes in creating custom programs for restaurants, cafes and shops in New York City; Sweetgreen, Clocktower, Upland and Santina are just a few of our clients! I started hosting boozy tea parties and Maria was interested in what I was doing.
ML: We both love tea and realized just how well tea worked as a mixer. We were looking for something that was light and fresh but didn’t skimp on flavor. Tea was the magic ingredient! We began traveling to events such as Sundance and toting around pounds of tea to fresh brew on site. It became quite messy! After hearing such positive reactions from party goers and cocktail enthusiast, we thought it’d be a good idea to bottle it up and go legit. Owl’s Brew officially launched in 2013 with three flavors: The Classic, Pink and Black ,and Coco-Lada. Today, we have added two additional flavors: White & Vine and Wicked Green.
What was the process of developing tea blends that suited the Famous Grouse in particular? JR: We had the chance to collaborate with the Grouse Guides, which are a group of bartenders and mixologists from across the country who work with the Famous Grouse. This gave us the opportunity to hear what flavor profiles really stood out to them for both The Famous Grouse and The Black Grouse. We shared our notes as well and started narrowing down what we thought would make for the perfect blend. We settled on The Famous Mint Tea and The Smoky Earl!
Tell us about one exceptional cocktail that a bartender has developed with Grouse and one of your blends. ML: We love the idea of a Scotch Julep using The Famous Mint Tea and think The Smoky Earl makes for a great riff on a Rob Roy, but it’s been really exciting to see the more complex cocktail recipes the Grouse Guide bartenders have come up using both of these brews. They continue to demonstrate the versatility of tea as an ingredient in cocktails.
Lately we’ve been loving the Superb Owl, which Denver bartender Dana Richardson came up with (Famous Grouse, The Famous Mint Tea, red wine, allspice dram, orange, star anise). It’s made in a slow cooker and served warm, so it’s ideal for nights in with friends when it’s too cold to go to the bar!