In between a one-two-three punch of snowstorms, I pulled out The Russian Tea Room: A Tasting (Clarkson Potter, 1993), a book of recipes and reminiscences from then-owner, Faith Stewart-Gordon. I never went to the Manhattan restaurant but its tea (and everything else on the menu) is steeped in history. Members of the Russian Imperial Ballet started it in 1927 near what became Carnegie Hall. Over the years, the place attracted many celebrities, including Salvador Dali, Leonard Bernstein, and Elizabeth Taylor. Madonna once worked there as a coat check girl there before she became famous.
I certainly couldn’t keep up with that clientele, but I could try a recipe. Raspberry Vodka felt like a science experiment because it called for adding fruit and vodka to a Mason jar, then letting it sit for several days. By the time it was ready, I was hunkering down for the third snowstorm. The first sip tasted a bit like cough syrup but that soon wore off as I enjoyed imagining the restaurant that the New York Times once described as flaunting “stage-Russian flair” with “red-red banquettes, shimmery samovars, and year-round Christmas ornaments whose wacky ubiquity announced an ambiance of festive eccentricity.” A fun escape as the snow fell.
The Russian Tea Room’s Raspberry Vodka
(Makes about 2 cups)
1 pint vodka
1/2 pint fresh raspberries
1/4 cup dried cherries
Peel from ¼ lemon
1/4 ounce Framboise liqueur
Combine all ingredients in a Mason jar and cover with the lid. Allow to sit at room temperature for 4 days. Strain the vodka and store chilled.