Tea has been used in alcoholic beverages for centuries, and the practice is flourishing today at NYC cocktail bars. 67 Orange Street and The Nomad Bar dedicate considerable menu real estate to cocktails featuring tea, and they’re not alone.
We track the menus at fifty of New York City’s most noteworthy cocktail bars, and these menus contain thirty-two cocktails featuring tea. These cocktails utilize fourteen distinct types of tea, from the household names of green tea, chai, and Earl Grey to less common teas such as sencha, hojicha, and gunpowder.
When it comes to tea cocktail construction, gin, rum, and vodka are commonly the foundation. Whiskey is utilized less-so, although there are exceptions; rye whiskey has a tendency to be paired with masala chai, while mixologists use bourbon alongside rooibos tea. Tequila is rarely mixed with tea, and when it is, it typically shares the spotlight with other spirits.
Tea-infused sweet vermouth is often used by mixologists seeking a more subtle tea taste. Given its lower proof, the fortified wine pulls a less intense flavor out of the tea leaves during the steeping process, and its sweetness helps to counteract the astringency.
Mixologists consistently include absinthe in tea-based cocktails given that the anise and herbal notes pair well with a wide selection of tea varieties. Although liqueurs are conspicuously absent from many of the tea cocktails on the menus we track, green chartreuse appears in two of the concoctions, alongside absinthe.
Flavors that often accompany tea in cocktails include lemon, ginger, vanilla and nutmeg. Food & Wine notes that vanilla beans and ginger can be steeped alongside the tea leaves “to add extra dimension to your tea cocktails.” Lemon is a popular accoutrement for every day tea drinkers, so it is no surprise that the citrus fruit stars in many tea-based cocktails as well.
Tea is often found in clarified milk punch cocktails. This clarification is achieved by adding a base cocktail to heated milk. The milk curds that form absorb any impurities within the drink, and are then filtered out, leaving behind a clear liquid with a silky texture and only a hint of the original milk flavor. This process works well with tea cocktails because it mellows tea’s astringent quality by trapping tannins in the milk curds.
Below, we have listed the fourteen tea varieties used at the cocktail bars that we track and provided examples of cocktails that are currently being served.
Green tea is the most common tea varietal used in the cocktails that we uncovered. Featured in nearly one third of the tea-based cocktails, below are three examples of green tea usage:
‘Nod to Nothing’
Cocktail Bar: The Nomad Bar
Ingredients: London Dry Gin, Cocchi Americano, Jasmine Pearl Green Tea, Apricot, Sage, Yuzu, Lemon
‘One Flight Up’
Cocktail Bar: Karasu
Ingredients: White Rum, Green Tea, Lime, Shiso
Cocktail Bar: 67 Orange Street
Ingredients: D’USSE, Avua Amburana, Lime, Green Tea Demerrara Syrup, Green Chartreuse, Absinthe
Macha, powdered green tea, is utilized in cocktails including:
Chai, referring to masala chai, is used on six of the fifty menus that we track. It is traditionally made by brewing black tea in a mixture of milk and water along with sugar and herbs including cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, ginger and black peppercorns.
Here are a few cocktails that feature chai:
Cocktail Bar: Blueprint
Ingredients: Clarified milk punch of chai-spiced infused Brazilian cane rum, vanilla-infused Caribbean rum, fresh citrus & a touch of palm sugar
EARL GREY TEA
Earl Grey, flavored with bergamot oil, accounted for five of the tea cocktails that appear on the menus we track, including:
‘Old World Punch’
Cocktail Bar: 67 Orange Street
Ingredients: Earl Grey Infused Hayman’s Old Tom Gin, Lemon Shrub, Fernet, Champagne
Cocktail bar: Angel’s Share
Ingredients: Earl Grey-Infused Gin, Lillet Blanc, Lemon Juice and Ginger Ale
Cocktail Bar: Pouring Ribbons
Ingredients: El Dorado Spiced Rum, Lemon, Yaguara Ouro Cachaca, Lady Grey Tea, Cinnamon, Copper & Kings Citrus Absinthe, Clarified Milk
Rooibos, also known as redbush tea, originates from South Africa and can be described as having earthy and tobacco flavors. Here are two cocktails that feature rooibos tea:
Cocktail Bar: Employees Only
Ingredients: Bulleit Bourbon & Red Bush Tea-infused Bianco Vermouth served tall with Fresh Lemon Juice & Ginger Beer
‘Lions in London’
Cocktail Bar: The Summit Bar
Ingredients: Rooibos Tea Infused Bombay Gin, Aperol, Dolin Sweet Vermouth, Summit Orange Bitters
BUTTERFLY PEA FLOWER TEA
This tea originated in Southeast Asia and has “earthy and woody” flavors according to Bon Appétit. Beyond the teas flavoring, pea flower tea’s intense blue color is artfully employed by mixologists. Below are two cocktails that feature this tea varietal:
‘All the Way’
Cocktail Bar: Seamstress
Ingredients: Spring 44 Vodka, Butterfly Blue Pea Flower, Cherry, Soda, Lime, Peychaud’s
Cocktail Bar: Apothéke
Ingredients: Ford’s Gin, Kubler Absinthe, Pepperocini Brine, Green Chartreuse, Carpano Bianco with Dill, Butterfly Pea Flower Tea
Below is a listing of cocktails from the menus that we track containing other varieties of tea:
‘Bizarre Love Triangle’
Cocktail Bar: Dram
Ingredients: 3 Peppered Gin, Fresh Lemon, Aloe, Cucumber, Mint Tea, Ginger, Soda
“English Milk Punch”
Cocktail Bar: Eleven Madison Park
Ingredients: Jamaican Rum, Batavia Arrack, Blended Malt Scotch Whiskey, Lemon, Pineapple, Darjeeling Tea, Battenkill Valley Milk Curd, Spices
Cocktail Bar: Leyenda
Ingredients: Gunpowder Tea Infused Singani, Cachaça, Palo Cortado Sherry, Coconut, Vanilla, Lime, Fernet, Nutmeg
Cocktail Bar: Nitecap
Orange Wine, Blueberry Tea infused Dolin Blanc Vermouth, Lustau Moscatel, Sherry, Campari, Raspberry, Sparkling Wine
“Cup o’ Punch”
Cocktail Bar: Saxon + Parole
Ingredients: Facundo Eximo Rum, Applejack, Roasted Pumpkin, Maple, Milk, Hojicha Tea, Nutmeg
Cocktail Bar: Sweet Polly
Ingredients: Tequilla, Bison Grass Vodka, Lime, Creme De Cassis, Yogurt, Jasmine Tea, Agave
“Matcha – Sesame Punch”
Cocktail Bar: Bar Goto
Ingredients: Vodka, Matcha, Sencha, Toasted Sesame, Light Cream
“Duke of Suffolk”
Cocktail Bar: Suffolk Arms
Ingredients: Hendrick’s Gin. Earl Grey & English Breakfast Tea. Cream
“The Quilt Room”
Cocktail Bar: The Up & Up
Ingredients: Jim Beam Black Extra-Aged Bourbon, Rooibos and Rose Hip Tea Blend, Lime Cordial, Lemon Juice, Honey, and Angostura Bitters