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8 Tea Cocktails to Try Right Now

Whether infused or added right in, tea contributes deliciously complex flavors to cocktails.

14 Hours Ahead cocktail
14 Hours Ahead Image: / Tim Nusog

Tea’s fragrant aromas and varied flavors are the perfect accent to a revitalizing cocktail. The mixture of tea and alcohol dates back at least to the expansion of colonial trade routes by European empires in the 17th century. From society parlors to pirate ships, there were plenty of punches served that called for both ingredients.

But while teas and tisanes (combinations of dried fruits, flowers and herbs) can make delicious beverages, they also contain the same tannins found in red wine and barrel-aged spirits. Left to steep too long, they exhibit a bitter astringency that can overwhelm an otherwise good drink.

To avoid this problem, I am a proponent of high-volume and relatively quick infusions, which extract a tremendous amount of flavor and minimize the sharper, drier notes. Start with a standard 750 mL bottle of liquor (light rum, vodka, pisco, vermouth or even whiskey) and add 4 to 5 tablespoons of a single-variety tea that you enjoy. (A lovely oolong from China’s ancient Phoenix mountain range is ideal.) Close the bottle, shake a few times, let it sit for between 60 and 90 minutes and then strain. It’s useful, of course, to taste-test along the way.

Alternatively, you can make an infused syrup: one part brewed tea, one part sugar. Bolder and brighter varieties like lavender, hibiscus and citrus will stand out best. This is an equally efficient technique and less of a commitment. You then use the syrup to lightly sweeten a cocktail, as in my Scarlet Glow.

If you’re daring, adding tea leaves directly to the mixing glass can result in greatness too, though I have only succeeded with matcha, the precious powdered green tea from Japan. Try it in my 14 Hours Ahead.

Whichever method you choose, tea cocktails marry two classic traditions and offer resounding stimulation, refreshment and humanity on any evening.

  • Scarlet Glow

    Scarlet Glow cocktail / Tim Nusog

    Hibiscus tea syrup adds gently sweet floral notes to this combination of pisco, yellow Chartreuse and grapefruit juice, a mixture that yields a mix of complex and unexpected flavors plus an eye-catching red hue.

    Get the recipe.

  • Earl Grey MarTEAni

    Earl Grey MarTEAni
    Tim Nusog

    Bartending vet Audrey Saunders created this tea-spiked twist on a Gin Sour that was wildly popular at the late Pegu Club, which sees the spirit infused with Earl Grey tea leaves, then strained and mixed with lemon juice, simple syrup and an egg white in the traditional way. 

    Get the recipe.

  • Goldwyn Follies

    Goldwyn Follies cocktail / Tim Nusog

    In this drink, gin is combined with apple and cranberry juices, brewed black tea and cinnamon syrup, producing a medley of autumnal flavors. A garnish of apple slices provides additional visual flair.

    Get the recipe.

  • Chai Tea Fizz

    Chai Tea Fizz / Tim Nusog

    If you’re a fan of chai, you’ll love this frothy, fresh cocktail that calls for infusing simple syrup with the spiced tea and shaking it with gin, lemon juice and egg white, then topping it all with soda for an effervescent texture.

    Get the recipe.

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • Ginger Rabbit

    Ginger Rabbit cocktail / Tim Nusog

    Bartender Damian Windsor came up with this spicy-sweet concoction, folding a star-anise-and-black-tea-infused simple syrup into a drink that sees lemon peel muddled with fresh ginger and then joined by bourbon, Creme Yvette and Angostura bitters.

    Get the recipe.

  • Green Tea Highball

    Green Tea Highball / Tim Nusog

    The Highball is perhaps the most Japanese of cocktails, and this twist adds brewed (and cooled) green tea to the classic whiskey-and-soda combo for an herbaceous kick. 

    Get the recipe.

  • Chit-Cha Toddy

    Chit-Cha Toddy / Tim Nusog

    Shawn Chen, the beverage director at RedFarm and principal bartender at Decoy in NYC, took inspiration from the traditional Chinese tea ceremony in creating this warm large-format punch that calls for freshly brewed osmanthus oolong tea. Rye whiskey, Benedictine, lemon juice, ginger syrup and honey round out the complex flavors of this cold-weather punch.

    Get the recipe.

  • 14 Hours Ahead

    14 Hours Ahead cocktail / Tim Nusog

    In this recipe, you add a teaspoon of matcha powder right into the cocktail shaker, along with gin, lemon and lime juices, honey syrup and heavy cream. The result is a bright, rich and relatively heavily caffeinated drink that’ll perk you up.

    Get the recipe.