Tea is more than just an easy afternoon pick-me-up or honey-and-lemon-laced cure for a persistent cold. There’s as much of a case to be made for using a sachet of your favorite tea in cocktails as there is for using it to soothe a sore throat. Whether you prefer chamomile, chai or green tea (or anything in between), here are five easy ways to infuse your cocktails with delicious teatime flavors.
Make a Syrup
Making a tea syrup is as easy as making simple syrup. All you need to do is combine a cup of water, a cup of white sugar and three teabags (or two to three tablespoons of loose leaf tea) in a saucepan. Bring that to a simmer, making sure the sugar fully dissolves, remove it from the heat and let the tea steep for a few minutes before straining it into a resealable jar to keep in the refrigerator. That flavor-packed tea syrup can be used to replace the basic sugar-and-water syrup in any number of cocktails. Try a black tea syrup in a Long Island Ice Tea (for some genuine tea flavor) or shake up some Earl Grey syrup in a Gin Fizz.
Infuse Your Liquor
If you don’t want to mess with boiling water, you can always infuse your tea directly into your liquor. This will intensify the flavor and ensure that the the spice and botanicals in your tea shine through in your cocktail. We suggest using about one tablespoon of loose leaf tea or one to two tea bags for every six ounces of spirit. Let that infuse at room temperature for one to two hours. Then, be sure to keep your infusion in the refrigerator and drink it within a few hours—the delicate flavors of the tea have a tendency to turn sour after sitting too long. Our favorite spirit infusions include rye whiskey steeped with chamomile, which makes a deliciously herbal Old Fashioned and green tea-infused Scotch whisky.
Create a Concentrate
Another easy way to add tea to cocktails is by brewing it into a potent concentrate, which you can either dilute with an equal amount of cold or hot water, or mix directly into a cocktail for more intense flavor. All you have to do is add twice as much tea to the amount of water you would typically use to brew it, let it sit for however long is normal, and then allow it to cool and store it in the fridge. It’s an easy way to make sure you have pre-brewed tea on hand whether you’re making an impromptu batch of Hot Toddies, punches or spiked iced tea.
Just Brew It
Fresh brewed tea is delightful in all manner of doctored-up Hot Toddies and rum-spiked punches. The standard brewed tea—particularly black tea—is an essential ingredient for classic cocktails like the Planter’s Punch and the Fish House Punch, but it’s also fun to experiment with pairing different tea types with unexpected spirits and testing out new iterations of tea cocktails, like the Rye Whiskey Punch.
Make Cold Brew or Sun Tea
One of the most hands-off ways to make a big batch of tea for all of your boozing needs is by using a cold brew or sun brew method. The two are similar in both method and flavor, creating a rounder, less bitter tea, particularly when black teas are used, but the cold brew method takes significantly longer. To make a cold brewed iced tea, add 10 tea bags to a gallon of water and refrigerate for up to 48 hours before removing the tea bags. Then, mix it into cocktails.
Sun tea is best made during the warmer summer months. Add six to eight tea bags to a gallon of water and let it sit on your porch or windowsill (not in direct sun) for at least two hours. If you like the flavor of your tea more concentrated, it can sit up to six or eight hours without getting too bitter. This method is particularly good if you like spiked sweet tea. Once the tea is brewed, add honey by quarter-cup increments until you reach the ideal level of sweetness. Then add your favorite spirit—bourbon, rye whiskey and rum are all solid bets.