Sitting on the porch and sipping a glass of freshly brewed iced tea is one of the greatest joys of summer. But there’s one way to make that joy even greater—with liquor. But before you simply dump alcohol from the closest bottle into your Crystal Light-mixed drink and calling it quits, try getting a little more creative with the boozification, and take the summer staple from bland to bright. Here, five foolproof ways to turn your iced tea into the ultimate caffeinated cocktail.
Vodka and Vanilla Syrup
Vodka is a great way to spike your iced tea without dramatically altering its flavor. But if you go this route, try adding something extra to boost the complexity and depth of the tea’s flavor: vanilla syrup. A little vanilla brings out summer’s dreamy bounty of fresh herbs in both black and green iced tea. Garnish your vodka-and-spice concoction with star anise to get even more cooling comfort from your cocktail.
Blended Scotch and Orange Slices
If your iced tea go-to is neither a standard black nor green tea, then you better have a bottle of blended scotch on hand. Whether you’re trying to liven up a fruity rooibos tea or a caffeine-free herbal brew, whisky will add a little extra oomph every time you take a sip. Though its complex flavor might sound overpowering, its delicate blend of baking spice, citrus and caramel notes complement just about anything. Layer orange or lemon slices along the sides of your glass to help bring forward some of those light and subtle notes in the whisky.
Rum, Raspberry and Lime
Rum, with hints of sweetness and funk, is the boozy base your iced tea never knew it needed. With a softer edge than whiskey, rum pairs beautifully with strongly brewed black tea—a fact that’s been proven time and time again through the history of cocktails. But don’t stop there: A duo of muddled raspberry and fresh lime juice will give the drink an air of sophistication and fruity summer fun.
Peach Brandy, Lemon and Mint
Fresh peaches and iced tea are a classic combination of flavors, so it makes sense that peach brandy would be a perfect addendum. Try going for one part peach brandy to three parts tea, and then squeeze in a healthy portion of lemon to add a welcome touch of acidity to the juicy blend of flavors. While any iced black tea will do for this combination, sun tea is subtle enough to let each flavor shine through, and a mint garnish adds the perfect touch of herbaceousness.
Limoncello and Cranberry Juice
If you love Arnold Palmers and want to keep the ABV in your boozy tea to a minimum, reach for a bottle of flavor-packed Limoncello. Especially when paired with sweet tea, the Italian liqueur is tart enough that its flavor won’t be lost when mixed. Add a splash or two of cranberry juice to achieve the ideal sweet-tart balance to cool you down, even on the hottest of summer days.