Iced tea is a staple summer beverage, its cold and refreshing and should be on every porch and patio from June to August. With the popularity of specialty loose-leaf teas on the rise there is an abundance of different flavors to explore. It’s easy enough to add alcohol to iced tea but tea can also be a wonderfully complex component in cocktails. Tea can be used as a cheap alternative to liqueurs, as a way to introduce unconventional flavors and as a means of subverting flavors that are familiar. What follows are some different teas you can use and some examples of cocktails you can use them in.
Making Tea Syrup
The main advantages to adding teas to your cocktails are how easy it is and accessibility. Everyone has tea in the cupboard and preparing it for cocktails is as easy as making a cup of it.
The key is to make your selected tea into a strong simple syrup. In a saucepan add 2 tea bags (or 2 tsp of loose-leaf) for every cup of water you use. Simmer the tea for 5-7 minutes then add a half-cup of sugar for every cup of water used. Continue to simmer until all of the sugar is dissolved, then bottle and chill.
Lapsang Souchong Tea
Lap Sang has an intense smoky smell and taste that is hard to match. Think of the peatiness of scotch but amped up. Behind this smokiness are more traditional black tea flavors. The advantage to using this tea in cocktails is it can be used as a cheap means of creating the sensation of more expensive liquors. When added to tequila it tastes like mezcal. When added to whiskey it tastes like scotch. Beyond that it can be used to replace the smoking process or adding liquid smoke to any drink.
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1 ½ oz tequila
¾ oz lapsang souchong tea syrup
1 ½ oz fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
½ oz fresh squeezed lime juice
1 grapefruit wedge (garnish)
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled and pour over ice into a champagne saucer.
Garnish with grapefruit wedge and serve.
Earl Grey Tea
Earl Grey is one of those teas that nearly everyone has. Its flavor is warm and familiar with notes of citrus and sometimes black licorice, depending on the brand. Historically, mixing Earl Grey with alcohol was common practice. The benefits to using this tea are that it’s a flavor that most people know and enjoy, so it’s good for picky drinkers, but you can also introduce that familiar taste in ways that are unexpected.
Earl at Night
2 oz Rye Whiskey
2 oz Earl Grey tea syrup
1 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 dashes cardamom bitters
Orange peel (garnish)
Mix all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled and egg white is foamed. Pour over ice into a cocktail glass.
Garnish with orange peel and serve.
Black Currant Tea
Black currant anything is delicious, but there is something particularly good about black currant tea. Often I will make iced tea out of it with a bit of lemon and I’m satisfied. In terms of cocktails, black currant tea mixes like a dream. It is naturally sweet and tart and has become one of the first things I reach for when I want to make a good summer cocktail. The main reason I use black currant tea is because it can be used to replace expensive black currant liqueurs such as Crème du Cassis or Chambord. By using this tea, you can create the same flavor profile for a fraction of the cost.
2 oz Gin
2 oz black currant tea syrup
1 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
¾ Grand Marnier
2 dashes lavender bitters
2 blackberries (garnish)
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled and pour over ice into a cocktail glass.
Garnish with black berries on a skewer and serve.
Rooibos tea is steadily growing in popularity and as a result there are many different flavor varieties at your disposal. Loose-leaf versions of the tea will often be paired with blueberry or other fruits, vanilla or even different teas, making for a lot of different mixing options. Rooibos is such a unique and full flavor that it is sure to generate a new dimension when added to any cocktail. For this drink I used “Alpine Punch,” a version of rooibos available at David’s Tea but any kind of rooibos can be substituted.
1 oz Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum
1 oz Alpine Punch rooibos tea syrup
½ oz pineapple juice
1 oz Montenegro Amaro
¾ oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 sprigs of rosemary (1 for garnish)
Combine all ingredients, including one sprig of rosemary, into a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled and pour over ice into an old fashioned glass.
Garnish with rosemary sprig and serve.