If the Hot Toddy has taught us anything, it’s that warm tea makes for a great cocktail base. And it’s no wonder, given the broad range of tea types and styles. Given that we’re still occupying winter, these kinds of drinks are all the more intriguing, offering two kinds of warmth — the hot tea itself and the hooch.
You can end up with something drinkable by just throwing a tea bag and some spirit into a mug with some hot water. But we’re not going for drinkable, we’re aiming for utterly irresistible. That said, there are some things to keep in mind when mixing with tea. The most important aspect is to make the tea as is recommended by the producer, as different kinds often require different methods.
Because you’ll be working with heat and alcohol, you want to make sure not to burn off the latter. In other words, feel free to warm the spirit so that the finished product is warm and steaming. However, unless you’re still in Dry January mode and looking to remove the alcohol, boiling the stuff gets rid of the buzz, as well as potentially some of the flavor.
When adding sweeteners, consider diluting them in hot water first. That way, they’ll integrate into the cocktail better, without adversely affecting the warm temperature. For bolder drinks, up your tea additions and consider steeping for longer periods of time. This works especially well if and when you’re working with overproof spirits or multiple kinds of spirits.
This kind of cocktail involves some fun flavor matching as well. Give some thought to the kind of tea you’re using and what might complement it. For example, the bergamot snap of Earl Grey does exceptionally well with brown spirits like bourbon. The honey-like flavors of chamomile love rum while jasmine tea and its big aromatics farewell with something like gin.
With the hot tea playing the leading role, this can be an opportunity to utilize more average well spirits. However, the higher-end stuff will certainly elevate the overall product. Play around with your garnishes, too, going above and beyond just a cinnamon stick or lemon wedge. Consider dehydrated citrus wheels, honey sticks, candied ginger, or shapely spices like star anise.
This recipe, courtesy of Cookin’ Canuck, employs the kick of ginger as well as the richness of dark rum and the earthy notes of the black tea.
- 3 ounces dark rum
- 2.5 cups brewed Orange Pekoe tea
- 2 tsp agave nectar
- 2 orange slices
- 2 thick ginger slices, peeled
- .25 tsp ground nutmeg
- Combine tea, rum, agave nectar, orange slices, ginger, and nutmeg in medium saucepan over medium heat.
- Heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let rest for 2 minutes.
- Remove orange and ginger and pour into mugs. Garnish with citrus.
This simple but satisfying toddy is citrus driven, rounded out by the nutty and caramelized flavor of bourbon.
- 2 ounces bourbon
- 4 ounces hot water
- 2 tsp honey
- 1 ounce lemon juice
- 1 bag Earl Grey tea
- Add bourbon, lemon, and honey to a heatproof mug.
- Make Earl Grey tea as usual, then add to mug.
- Stir to mix, garnish with a lemon wedge, and enjoy.
This recipe from Wine Enthusiast is a great use of chai, complemented expertly with the grassiness of a good Rhum Agricole.
- 2 ounces rhum agricole
- 8 ounces milk
- 1 ounce masala chai tea
- .5 ounce maple syrup
- Bring tea, 8 ounces of water, and milk to boil then simmer for 5 minutes before straining.
- Blend 3 ounces of the mixture with Rhum Agricole and maple syrup in a mug.
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