By Tim Ebner, photography by Jennifer Chase
In the arid and wild terrain of the southern Jordanian desert is where you’ll find a protected land called Wadi Rum.
Most people might know it as the setting of Lawrence of Arabia, the Oscar-winning 1962 film starring Peter O’Toole. In history, it’s where Colonel T.E. Lawrence led Arab forces north into Syria, eventually defeating the Ottomans and overtaking Damascus during World War I.
But to Chris Hassaan Francke, owner of the Green Zone in Adams Morgan, Wadi Rum is more than just a movie set or historical landmark. It’s an experience that evokes a cocktail inspired by a camping trip he once took with his father.
“About six years ago, I was in Beirut visiting family, and my dad and I decided to do a side trip, spending two nights in Wadi Rum,” Francke says. “It was one of the most memorable trips I’ve ever been on because at night, you’re essentially sleeping in slightly modernized Bedouin tents. And every night before bed, we met in a central tent to take in a fire, eat dinner and drink tea.”
Drinking tea or coffee is how most Bedouin tribes welcome in their guests. They are nomadic people who serve hot beverages out of necessity—temperatures in Wadi Rum drop to near freezing most nights. The ritual of tea is something Francke says he’ll never forget.
“The tea there is like unlike anything else because it’s not just black tea, there’s also sage, and it’s served sweet,” he says. “Each night by the campfire, there would be just endless pots of tea going over the fire.”
Closer to home this type of tea might be harder to find. Francke says you can buy sage tea at local Middle Eastern markets, like Mediterranean Bakery in Alexandria or Gourmet Basket in McLean. In Jordan, the tea is known as maramiyya and in Lebanon, it’s called qass’een.
Or you can visit the Green Zone this winter, where sage tea is combined into a cocktail with smoky-sweet flavors conjuring up Francke’s Bedouin tent experience.
“It’s the same sage tea plus black tea and lapsang souchong, which is a smoked tea that’s reminiscent of sitting around a campfire,” Francke says. “And because it’s Wadi Rum, of course, we had to add some rum in there too.”
Francke prefers a light-bodied rum, like Don Q Añejo or Mount Gay Eclipse, but if you want to substitute a local craft distillery, try Cotton & Reed’s dry-spiced rum.
The drink can be made in minutes and combines all the elements of a stiff drink sure to get you through the dark and cold days of winter.
“It’s boozy, it’s hot, it’s smoky and it’s a little bit sweet,” Francke says. “What more do you want in a wintertime drink?”
Ingredients for the Wadi Rum cocktail:
● 6 ounces water
● 1 tablespoon loose Ceylon black tea
● 1 teaspoon lapsang souchong tea
● 1 teaspoon Levantine sage
● ½ ounce simple syrup
● 1½ ounces light aged rum
How to make the Wadi Rum cocktail:
Add 6 ounces of water to a saucepan and add the teas and sage. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 5 minutes. Or add the tea and sage to a teakettle and steep with boiling water for 5 minutes (the latter will produce a lighter tea).
Rinse a heat-proof glass or mug with hot water. Then, add the syrup and rum—such as Don Q Añejo or Mount Gay Eclipse—and top off with hot tea, straining out the leaves. Stir briefly before serving.