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3 Tea-Infused Cocktails Perfect for Late-Summer Soirees

Treat guests to a trio of boozy brews tailored for early-autumn tippling.

By Christina Barrueta | Photography by Rick Gayle

In other parts of the country, September is time for hot toddies, mulled wine and spiced cider. But in our desert climate, fall entertaining can call for icy beverages to keep our guests happy and hydrated. Lounging by the pool or gathering friends and family for a cookout means frosty pitchers are on hand, and nothing is more refreshing than reaching for a cold glass of iced tea slick with condensation. This month, try kicking it up a notch and surprising friends with our sophisticated and thirst-quashing chilled tea cocktails.

A refreshing alternative to citrus-based sippers, cocktails made with tea are perfect as poolside coolers and warm-weather refreshers. Tea lends tannic structure, floral and herbal notes, and endless variations partnered with complementary spirits. Its versality means it can be used as brewed tea, infused in spirits or steeped in syrups.

The Camby Hotel in Phoenix is home to the popular Tipsy Tea Party, a regular weekend event pairing elevated finger foods with cocktails served in teapots, so it is no surprise that barman Justin Arellano is a tea cocktail pro. “Using tea adds complexity to your drink,” he shares. “You also have that caffeine boost for sweltering hot days when it’s nice to have a little pick-me-up as well as getting your booze on.”

Here are three fun and festive beverages to slake your late-summer thirst:


KINGSTON FOG

Arellano’s Kingston Fog is inspired by both the London Fog and Domenica cocktails (the latter learned while working with Sasha Petraske, founder of the renowned New York City cocktail bar Milk & Honey). The name is a nod to its use of Plantation Jamaican rum and the drink is a complex, layered union of Pimm’s No. 1, dark and white rums, and Earl Grey tea syrup. “I first tried using just the white rum, but the cocktail didn’t have enough body. Adding the Plantation O.F.T.D. brought another element and gave the drink a nice juiciness that shone through the herbal notes,” says Arellano.

Bringing together the spiced nuances of Pimm’s with the sugar cane richness of rum is a cap of cream that perfectly mellows the earthy astringency of the Earl Grey, a tea flavored with lavender and bergamot citrus.

12 ounce Pimm’s No.1

1 ounce Earl Grey simple syrup (see recipe)

34 ounce Matusalem white rum

34 ounce Plantation O.F.T.D. Overproof dark rum

12 cup heavy cream

1 brown sugar cube

Dried lavender

Add Pimm’s, simple syrup and white and dark rums to a mixing glass. Stir with ice, 30-60 seconds to dilute. You will see the level rise as your ice starts to melt. Strain and pour into a coupe or martini glass. 

Combine cream and sugar cube in a squeeze bottle or Boston shaker. (A white sugar also can be used; brown sugar adds a note of caramel.) Shake for 15-30 seconds. This causes microbubbles which will make the cream float. Top the cocktail with a layer of cream. Garnish with lavender. 

Serves 1

EARL GREY SIMPLE SYRUP 

Add 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar to a saucepan. Heat the ingredients until dissolved. Add one Earl Grey teabag and let steep for 4 minutes. Strain and cool. 

SPICY HEAVEN

Tea Forté’s Bleu infusions derive their vivid cobalt hue from butterfly pea flowers, a tropical vine that has been used for centuries in Southeast Asia as a natural pigment. For the Spicy Heaven, tequila is briefly infused with Bleu Hibiscus to impart its vibrant color before mixing with muddled cilantro, lime juice, triple sec and a chile kick of sliced jalapeños. In appearance and taste, it’s the perfect accompaniment to poolside lounging.

1 tea bag or 1 tablespoon Tea Forté Bleu Hibiscus tea

112-2  ounces tequila

6 cilantro leaves

12 ounce triple sec

12 ounce fresh lime juice

2-3slices of jalapeño pepper

Fresh cilantro

Infuse tequila with Tea Forté’s Bleu Hibiscus tea for approximately 5 minutes. Muddle cilantro in a cocktail shaker. Add tequila, triple sec and lime juice and shake with ice. Strain and pour over fresh ice. Garnish with jalapeño slices a sprig of fresh cilantro.

Serves 1

PINEAPPLE GINGER ZINGER

Good Earth’s Pineapple Blues tea draws its name from green tea infused with pineapple, blueberry and blue cornflower, bolstered by black currant, elderberry, lemongrass and hibiscus. Combining the brew in a Pineapple Ginger Zinger with alcoholic ginger beer, fresh lime juice and a rowdy rosemary sprig results in a patio-perfect, magenta-hued crowd-pleaser.

1 sachet or 1 heaping teaspoon of Good Earth Tea Pineapple Blues tea

1 cup boiling water

23 cup ginger beer

112 tablespoons lime juice

1 sprig fresh rosemary

Steep tea in boiling water for 7 minutes. Remove tea bag and refrigerate until cool. Combine tea, lime juice and ginger beer. Pour over ice and garnish with rosemary.

Serves 1

JUSTIN ARELLANO’S COCKTAIL TIPS

1. When adding your ingredients to your mixing glass, always start with the least expensive ingredients in case you have to start over.

2. Infusing tea flavor: Be careful with time; it’s easy to steep too long, and your tea will be bitter. If you’re infusing a spirit, try a flash-infusion using nitrous oxide. You just add your tea and spirit to a cream whipper, let it sit for five minutes, release the gas and strain your ingredients. The process quickly takes the essence of the solids and places them in your liquid.

3. Getting in the spirits: Gin contains herbs and botanicals similar to those in a tea cocktail, so it is not something you need to doctor up with tea. However, if you’re going to use it, stick with drier London-style gins with citrus notes. Vodka goes well with herbal teas and floral teas because you want to highlight their delicate notes. Rum has rich sugar cane and molasses notes that soften astringent black teas, while whiskey and rye play up black tea’s boldness.

4. Creating your own tea cocktails should be enjoyable. The best drinks come from experimentation and using ingredients you like. You want to have fun and explore your own taste buds.

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