Tea is rich in antioxidant benefits, naturally sugar-free (a teaspoon of tea brewed with water only contains 2 calories), contains the calming amino acid L-theanine, and is quite impressive when it comes to its lustrous history, deep cultural roots, and veritable characteristics.
It is the most widely drunk beverage in the world beside water. Here in America, we may not have embraced a cultural ritual or a “tea time” yet, but one thing for sure is that we love our iced tea. The iced tea industry has grown and diversified tremendously over the last decade.
Tea Plus Alcohol Equals Almost Healthy
To my delight, tea companies and finer restaurants are beginning to introduce tea beverages also: tea cocktails, which are typically infused or blended with alcohol.
Tea stands up to more than the test of connoisseur taste buds and time; it can be prepared with a multitude of techniques and joyfully blended, steeped, or even mixed into a new age of cocktails. Steeped or infused from the whole leaf, tea offers us an alluring, full-bodied and nutrient rich beverage.
I much prefer whole leaf to bagged tea, especially when it comes to the health benefits, quality, flavor, and price. This topic is the subject of many articles, but for my purpose here I will introduce you to cocktails that not only taste wonderful but also contain the added health benefits of whole leaf tea.
When mixed with a punch of vodka, rum, gin, or wine, tea can create a cocktail with healthful benefits. So move over glass of wine, get in line vodka and tonic — there’s a new cocktail in town!
Try These Five Favorite Tea Cocktails
(The cocktail names are fictitious; any resemblance to another cocktail real or otherwise is purely coincidental.)
makes approximately 4 cocktails
Add 3 T traditional Masala Chai tea to 1 quart of boiling water. Simmer for 10-15 minutes. For a sweeter drink, add 1 T of honey to the hot water. Strain leaves from water and let cool. This is now a Chai concentrate.
Pour 1.5 oz of rum, whiskey, or bourbon into a highball glass filled with ice. Add 1 oz of simple syrup* (vanilla simple syrup is preferable). Add 3-4 oz of the Chai concentrate. Pour this mix into a larger glass and back to the highball. Top off with a splash of soda water. Garnish with a sprinkle of cinnamon or vanilla bean.
makes 1 cocktail
Pour 2 oz of vodka into a mason jar. Add one whole leaf tea filter** containing 1 T of hibiscus flower tea to the vodka (you can use only hibiscus flower if desired). Allow tea and vodka to infuse 20-30 minutes. Remove tea filter. Add a dash of lime juice and ice; stir. Strain into a 5 oz martini glass. Garnish with lime.
Earl Grey G&T
makes approximately 2 cocktails
Steep 1 T strong Earl Grey whole leaf tea in 16 oz boiling water for 5-7 minutes. Strain leaves, let cool. Add 1 oz gin to an 8 oz highball filled with ice. Add Earl Grey tea almost to top. Top off with a splash of tonic water. Squeeze lime slice into mixture. Mix gently. Garnish with lime.
makes approximately 2 quarts
Steep 2-3 T whole leaf raspberry black tea in 32 oz boiling water for 5-10 minutes. Strain leaves. Let cool. Add wedges of orange, grapefruit, lemon, lime, and raspberries to tea. Pour 1 bottle (750ml) red table wine to tea mixture. Serve from a punch bowl or large glass beverage dispenser into red wine glasses.
Spunky Ginger-Peach Melba
makes 1 cocktail
Pour 2 oz vodka into a mason jar. Add one whole leaf tea filter** containing 1 T of ginger peach tea to vodka. Allow tea and vodka to infuse 20-30 minutes. Remove tea filter and add a splash of peach nectar, several raspberries, 1 oz of vanilla simple syrup,* and ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a peach slice.
I encourage you to experiment and try playing with different flavors, fruits, spices, and spirits; blending tea cocktails is all about creativity and fun, while being mindful to drink these extraordinary libations in moderation. Although it is my job to create tea blends, you will not need anything other than a love for tea and a desire to be creative to come up with your own favorite tea cocktail.
*Simple Syrup is an easy 1:2 ratio of boiling water and sugar.
**You can find paper tea filters on many whole leaf tea websites. I recommend finding one long enough that you can tie a loose knot in the end to keep your tea from spilling out during infusion.
Photo Credits: Katherine Price, all other photos by the author