Spiked iced tea is one of the best beverages for combatting summer heat (or cooling down on those sneaky spring and fall days that surprise you by breaking 85 degrees). When it’s too hot to work up a sweat shaking a cocktail, simply pour your favorite spirit into a glass of ice cold tea for an easy peasy sipper. And when it’s too hot to consider even that simple process, opt for pre-packaged hard iced tea. Bottled or canned, these brands offer refreshment at the twist of a cap or pop of a pull-tab. They’re perfect for the beach or a barbecue, and make for a great front porch sipper when it’s too hot to do much else. Here are our favorite brands of spiked ice tea to fill your cooler all season.
If you’ve had spiked iced tea, you’ve probably had Twisted. While we like Twisted Half & Half (aka an Arnold Palmer), the Original offers more versatility for tea drinkers because it’s so simple. Its biggest selling point is that it tastes just like regular iced tea, so it’s easy drinking that doesn’t feel flat or watered down. Hints of lemon and peach add some fruity tang and keep things interesting. If your goal is to drink something that tastes like iced tea but secretly gets you a bit boozed up, then you want Twisted Tea.
You may have tried Not Your Father’s Root Beer, but you should check out Small Town’s bottled and boozy iced tea as well. Intensely lemony with a full yeasty body and a touch of bitter black tea on the finish, Not Your Mom’s Iced Tea is supremely quaffable. It’ll instantaneously make you feel like a cool mom sneaking a mid-day tipple in her innocent-looking beverage.
Ocean City, Maryland, is known as a beachside mecca for summertime partiers. Hoop Tea, born in the sunny getaway, embodies this carefree spirit with a range of delightfully effervescent teas in colorful Instagrammable cans (and 3-liter pouches, should you wish to satisfy your whole crew while boozing out on the boardwalk). While the company’s new Hoop Tea Aire flavors (Goji Berry Green Tea and Orange Hibiscus Tea) come in slim, pastel cans that we adore, we prefer their original white mango and watermelon flavors. The mango tastes unabashedly sweet, like a perfectly ripe version of the fruit. The watermelon, meanwhile, tastes more like rind than juicy flesh, offering a full, round flavor that goes down easy.
Arnold Palmer is a fairly reliable brand for a quick half and half fix, and their spiked bottling, offered in massive 24-ounce cans, is just as consistent. Nicely bitter, the brand avoids the overly sweetened, tongue-numbing taste that ruins some Arnold Palmers. Erring more toward tea than lemonade, the drink is bright and dry, and it definitely benefits from a fresh lemon slice.
We’re still not sure why Canadians are obsessed with spiked iced tea (you can head across the border to sample a handful of brands not available stateside), but we appreciate the commitment our northern neighbors show for the beverage. While the Canadian brand Hey Y’all takes inspiration from the American South, the brand’s “Southern style” iced tea is actually quite bitter, more like unsweetened iced tea than the sweet tea offered at every home and restaurant south of the Mason-Dixon. Light and maybe a touch watery, Hey Y’all is a mellow sipper for anyone who loves iced tea uninhibited by heaps of sugar.
The iced green tea drinkers of the world were drastically underserved by the hard tea market until Vrai entered the scene to save the day. As the maker of several vodka-based canned cocktails in flavors like Tangerine and Paloma, Vrai describes its boozy green tea as “sort of fruity, sort of earthy, totally portable,” and we wholeheartedly agree. Far from bitter, Vrai is lightly spritzy with notes of buttery mango, cola, lemon and almond. Each sip leaves a tangy aftertaste that immediately draws you in for more. It’s the perfect antidote to black tea overload.