Tangy Tea

Kombucha and vodka give your taste buds a kick

By now you’ve surely heard of kombucha, the fermented tea that marries two of Madison’s great loves: health trends and home brewing. Kombucha devotees say it cures what ails you, improving digestion and boosting immunity. But not everyone’s a fan.

“I don’t care for it, actually,” says Greg Wolfson, a manager at the Green Owl Café, where the signature cocktail is kombucha with vodka. “I just can’t really get into it.”

There is the ick factor. To make kombucha, you need a jellied cake of bacteria and yeast, a “mother” starter that’s added to sweetened tea. As the tea ferments, the mother culture breeds a second cake that can be peeled away and used to make more kombucha. (Enthusiasts give away and sell these baby starters, much like bakers swap sourdough cultures.)

Green Owl buys kombucha from Madison-based NessAlla, and makes its own in the cafe’s basement, brewing flavors like passionfruit and ginger-peppercorn. The tea is tangy and subtly sweet, and, stirred with Yahara Bay vodka, a refreshing accompaniment to the final slide of summer.

But does adding booze to kombucha cancel out its health benefits? Wolfson sees it the other way around: “You shouldn’t feel badly about drinking vodka if you drink it with kombucha.”

RECIPE: Vodka and kombucha cocktail

1 1/2 oz. Yahara Bay vodka
Kombucha

Fill glass with ice. Add vodka; top with kombucha.

Recipe courtesy of The Green Owl Café, 1970 Atwood Ave., 285-5290, thegreenowlcafe.com.

Find more Hip Sips recipes here

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