There’s nothing like cozying up with a hot cup of tea when it’s cold outside. Steaming goodness flavored with everything from classic green and black tea leaves, to cinnamon and chamomile, to raspberry zinger, tea is one of the most soothing ways to end the day. The only thing better is a cup of hot tea spiked with a little something extra.
The easiest way to tastefully incorporate alcohol into your favorite tea is by slightly altering the classic Hot Toddy recipe. Choose your preferred spirit—whether it be rum, gin, whiskey or vodka—pour it into a mug along with a touch of honey and a spritz of lemon, then top it with tea in place of hot water. Keep the tea-tails flowing when the cool nights turn balmy by mixing your concoction over ice. To help spark your cocktailian creativity, we tried spiking six classic teas with liquor to find out which pairings were best. Here are our favorite combinations.
Black Tea + Rum
Black tea, whether you reach for classic English breakfast tea or orange pekoe, is the perfect accompaniment to rum. Bartenders dating back to the days of Jerry Thomas have proven this time and time again with cocktails like the Fish House Punch (a full bottle of dark rum with just as much black tea, as well as some Cognac and peach brandy) and Planter’s Punch (a simple mix of black tea and dark rum). Rum’s natural sweetness rounds off black tea’s bitter edge, while other spirits like whiskey can sometimes accentuate that astringency.
Green Tea + Whisky
We know that boozifying green tea negates many of its purported health benefits, but the flavor is worth it. At Ramen Gaijin in Sebastopol, California, bar manager Gillian Tyrnauaer and mixologist Scott Beattie infuse green tea directly into Japanese whisky for a distinct take on the Whisky Highball. The tea adds a savory, grassy quality to the whisky that makes it ideal for pairing with food or sipping solo. As soon as we tasted the Green Tea-Infused Whisky Highball—which is made with 1.5 ounces of green tea-infused whisky, 2 ounces of soda water and a sea palm garnish—we knew the two liquids were meant for each other.
Mint Tea + Rum or Bourbon
Mint is a versatile flavor in cocktails. It’s in a range of classics and signatures, and fresh mint leaves are a staple ingredient at any respectable cocktail bar. So when attempting to pair mint tea with liquor, we looked to classic mint-infused cocktails for inspiration—namely, the rum-spiked Mojito and bourbon-based Mint Julep. Even though both of these drinks use the fresh herb, a good mint tea, made into a syrup, is a wonderful addition to the cocktails for an extra-minty kick. If you don’t have time to make a syrup or are looking for something more simple, you can also create a delicious Toddy with either spirit. To do so, top 2 ounces of rum or bourbon with mint tea and some demerara sugar (or honey, if you prefer).
Chamomile Tea + Gin or Vodka
Birds of a feather flock together when it comes to floral flavors. A lovely and calming tea, chamomile gets its charm from its herbaceousness and florality—just like gin—making the two perfect boozy business partners. Try infusing chamomile directly into gin, from there, you can use it in pretty much any gin cocktail recipe—like a Tom Collins—or even a gin-take on an Old Fashioned. If it’s a hot cocktail you want, opt for a Toddy, topping gin with a hot pour of mild chamomile tea and honey. The mix can be overwhelmingly herbal for some people, though. If that’s the case, or if you’re not feeling especially herby at the moment, try pairing your chamomile tea with vodka.
Chai Tea + Rye Whiskey or Irish Cream
Similar to gin and chamomile, spicy rye whiskey and chai tea work together like a charm because of their shared characteristics. Go ahead and upend your flask directly into your mug—all it needs is a touch of sugar to round out the flavor. Or, if you want something a little creamier and less spicy, Irish cream is also a great addition to chai—just swap it in for milk and make yourself a spiked chai latte. No one will be the wiser.
Earl Grey + Bourbon
Though it is usually made from a blend of black teas, Earl Grey also boasts bergamot oil. A type of orange, bergamot adds a slight citric quality to the tea. And while it would go wonderfully with rum, like its other black tea counterparts, bourbon also makes a convincing case. The spirit’s sweetness complements the tea and balances out its sharper notes. Infuse the Earl Grey into a simple syrup to use in an Old Fashioned or Mint Julep, or go the Toddy route and be sure to garnish with an orange slice.