A genius guide for making better summer cocktails with iced tea

Trust us: Bourbon and black iced tea are a match made in beverage heaven

By Ashlie D. Stevens

Food Editor

Published June 2, 2022 4:55PM (EDT)

Bartender mixing cocktails in bar (Getty Images/YorVen)
Bartender mixing cocktails in bar (Getty Images/YorVen)

Iced tea is one of the quintessential drinks of summer. When paired with spirits, you get a low-ABV cocktail that is perfect for day-drinking or capping off a long day spent in the heat. But just as there are a dizzying array of spirits on the market, there are also a plethora of teas from which to choose, ranging from grassy greens to colorful floral blends.

While the selection may feel daunting, there are some best practices that come into play when mixing up a glass of spiked tea. To set you up for success, here's an easy pairings guide for making these refreshing cocktails at home. 

Black tea and bourbon 

My favorite black teas have smoky, honey undertones with some subtle, slightly bitter citrus notes. So do some of my favorite bourbons. Both black tea and bourbon play well with a little too much pellet ice (driving this drink almost into boozy slushie territory, which I love), mint and lots of lemon. 

RELATED: 8 best light and refreshing cocktails for cookouts and picnics

Combine 2 ounces of bourbon with 4 ounces of cooled black tea over ice. Garnish with a few sprigs of mint and a lemon wedge. If you like your iced tea sweet, feel free to add honey or simple syrup to taste. 

Green tea and gin 

Good gin has delicate botanical notes — ranging from juniper to cucumber to coriander — that are further thrust into the spotlight when paired with green tea, especially blends that are exceptionally vegetal and verdant. Unlike black tea and bourbon, you don't want this combination to get too watered down, so go easy on the ice.

Shake 2 ounces of gin and 4 ounces of brewed and cooled green tea with ice, then strain the mixture into a glass. Top with a splash of tonic water. 

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Ginger tea and rum 

While ginger tea is often relegated to the back of the pantry until either cold and flu season or Hot Toddy weather, break it out this summer to make a play on the Dark 'n' Stormy, a classic cocktail that is traditionally made with dark rum and ginger beer.

Combine 2 ounces of rum and 4 ounces of brewed and cooled ginger tea over ice. Garnish with a lime slice or two. 

Hibiscus tea and vodka 

When brewed and cooled, hibiscus tea takes on a gorgeous magenta color and a tart, berry-like flavor. Use it to make a variation of a Cape Cod cocktail, which is traditionally made with 4 parts cranberry juice and 1 part vodka.

In this cocktail, pour 1 ounce of vodka and 4 ounces of chilled hibiscus over ice. Stir gently, top with a little soda water and garnish with lime

More cocktail recipes from the Salon Food archives: 

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By Ashlie D. Stevens

Ashlie D. Stevens is Salon's food editor. She is also an award-winning radio producer, editor and features writer — with a special emphasis on food, culture and subculture. Her writing has appeared in and on The Atlantic, National Geographic’s “The Plate,” Eater, VICE, Slate, Salon, The Bitter Southerner and Chicago Magazine, while her audio work has appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered and Here & Now, as well as APM’s Marketplace. She is based in Chicago.

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