Cocktail Hour Now Is Tea Time, Too.

Cocktail Hour Now Is Tea Time, Too.

We talk quite a bit about tea’s kaleidoscopic range of flavors, everything from earth and mushrooms (oolong and puerh) to grass (sencha), malt (Assam) and the expansive diversity of tastes that herbal teas deliver to tea lovers. Rose and lavender. Cayenne heat and vanilla softness. Bright mint, complex chamomile and citrusy bergamot.

No other category of beverage comes close (that includes you, our dear friend coffee). This boundary-pushing quality merges beautifully with cocktail crafting. Only cooks explore flavor with more breadth than the people who blend liquids, fruit and other ingredients for the sake of adult beverages cocktails. A classic martini leans into each gin’s thicket of botanicals, which will always include juniper berry. A seemingly simple Aperol spritz revolves largely around the many plant elements, quite a few of them bitter, that get used to make Aperol. Mojitos celebrate mint, margaritas elevate lime, and a Sazerac includes the anise-forward flavor of absinthe. 

Enter tea

While few classic cocktails incorporate tea, that changed substantially during the past few decades. Bartending grew increasingly more adventurous, drinks lovers betrayed an upped commitment to savoring new concoctions and tea started getting added to recipes.

The movement toward tea cocktails doesn’t revolve exclusively around drinks with booze. During the past few years more and more people are experimenting with cutting back on booze, or jettisoning it entirely. Yet they still desire the adult flavors they enjoyed with cocktails, the best of which balance sour, bitter, sweet and savory into glorious sippable beverages. Tea figures marvelously into the rising tide of mocktails as well.

Now that it’s the second week of October, many of us are beginning the months-long parade of days that pass through Halloween, Thanksgiving, the December holidays and end on New Year’s Day. And for much of this time, drinks are in hand. The holiday parties. The feasts. The festive post-work get-togethers. 

It’s time to begin coming up with new cocktail and mocktail recipes to wow friends, family and colleagues. You could stick with a handful of classics, but why not try something new—including twists on classics? Read on for cocktails that feature multi-faceted tea.

Tea Cocktails: Hot Toddy with Winter Chai

Warm your autumn and winter spirit with a chai hot toddy.

One cocktail that thrills in winter is the hot toddy, a drink served warm and normally spiked with whiskey, honey, lemon juice and a cinnamon stick. Our version honors the classic, but steps it up the spice quotient with our wonderful Winter Chai. Instead of just featuring cinnamon, this hot toddy also adds malty Assam black tea, ginger, cardamom, rosemary, red pepper, bay leaf, cayenne pepper and cacao. This is one flavor-packed cocktail. And about as simple as it gets.


Brew a cup of our fabulous Winter Chai. Pour it into a mug, along with a little sweetener, like honey, a lemon slice and 2 ounces of whiskey. Serve as is, or plunge a cinnamon stick into the mug.

Tea Cocktails: Matcha Margarita

Up that margarita game—with matcha.

With its heavy quotient of lime juice, the margarita already broadcasts a subtle green hue. But with this cocktail gem, the green will shine much brighter. And so will the flavor.

The margarita revolves around a perfect balance of fresh lime juice, orange liqueur and tequila. That’s the basics. Our margarita variation champions the original formula; it includes all of the main ingredients. The twist is just a teaspoon of matcha powder, which pumps up the color but also adds a welcome blast of grassiness to the drink. It’s extremely refreshing. And the jolt of matcha doesn’t detract from the margarita experience; it enhances it.


Combine 2 ounces of blanco tequila, 1 ounce of an orange liqueur like Cointreau or Triple Sec, 1 ounce of fresh lime juice and 1 teaspoon of matcha powder into a cocktail shaker. Add ice, and shake until chilled. Strain into a squat cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime slice.

Tea Cocktails: Earl Grey Superior Whiskey Sour

A Whiskey Sour + Earl Grey is a thing of beauty.

People have been sipping Whiskey Sours since at least the 1860s. It’s stuck around for good reason: It’s fairly perfect. It’s similar, in a way, to the hot toddy, only it’s served cold. But it’s also got an egg white, which gives it lovely texture, and shrinks from the baking spices like cinnamon.

Our version fully embraces the classic Whiskey Sour, but then it adds the sublime flavors of the citrus fruit bergamot, thanks to Earl Grey tea, to the drink. We love it.

Just adding brewed Earl Grey tea to the drink wouldn’t quite work. You’d have to brew the tea too strong to really hit home with the bergamot flavor—but it would be too bitter. Regular Earl Grey tea added to the drink wouldn’t offer the punch we want. So instead, we make a simple syrup with Earl Grey tea. Use it in this cocktail and save it in the refrigerator for other uses. Delicious.


Earl Grey Simple Syrup:

Bring 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar to boil in saucepan. Turn off the heat and add 3 teaspoons our Earl Grey Superior tea to the saucepan and let seep for 5 minutes. Pour through a strainer to remove tea leaves. 


Place 1 ounce whiskey, 1 ounce lemon juice, 1 ounce Earl Grey simple syrup, 1/2 ounce egg white, 1 twist lemon peel to cocktail shaker. Shake ingredients for 15 seconds or so, and then add ice to shaker and shake for another 15 seconds. Pour into a glass with ice and lemon twist, if desired.

Tea Cocktails: Desert Rose Spritz Mocktail

Mocktails like the Desert Rose spritz are made for aperitivo time!

Everybody loves spritz cocktails these days. The leading star, Aperol Spritz, finds purchase on drink menus not only across the United States and the drink’s homeland—Italy—but now around the world, too. It’s so refreshing and easy. The drink is low in alcohol, too. 

We think spritzes make wonderful mocktails. Seltzer water gives the whole package carbonated fizz. The rest of the drink is up to the cocktail maker. It can be tropical (pineapple juice as an ingredient). A spritz can be herbal (a little thyme in the recipe). It can offer flavors of chocolate and cherry, or sage and chamomile. It’s a marvelous canvas.

One of our versions celebrates our Desert Rose herbal tea, which we transform into a simple syrup. This tea evokes the desert Southwest, or Mediterranean regions. With rose, rosemary, sage (there’s your desert), lavender and lemon balm, it’s complex and atmospheric. Many good spritzes contain a bit of bitter, and for that we turn to cocktail bitters. It’s a beautiful, and refreshing, non-alcoholic drink.


Desert Rose Simple Syrup:

Bring 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar to boil in saucepan. Turn off the heat and add 3 teaspoons our Desert Rose tea to the saucepan and let seep for 5 minutes. Pour through a strainer to remove tea leaves. 


Fill a glass with ice. Pour 1 ounce of Desert Rose simple syrup, 1 ounce grapefruit juice, 2 dashes Angostura bitters into glass, and top with seltzer water or club soda. Garnish with orange slice.

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