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The Rise Of The Iced Tea Cocktail: From Tea Houses To Your Cocktail Lounge

iced tea origins

Refreshing and invigorating, iced tea is a thoroughly inviting drink that is hard to resist during summer months. An intensely brewed black tea topped with cold water, served in a tall glass with ice, a mint sprig and lime wedge garnish, this drink has a long history spanning at least two centuries.

Over time, iced tea cocktails have garnered popularity too, as boozy drinks which pack quite a kick into your favourite summertime drink. Adding a generous pour of bourbon, rum, vodka or even gin to different kinds of tea blends has led to an exploration of different flavour profiles that go well with this intense beverage.

summertime iced tea

Classic Iced Tea

Surprisingly, the long island iced tea which has become quite famous through time is actually prepared without the addition of tea. But the drink is so close in hue and appearance to the non-alcoholic iced tea that it borrowed its name from this summer mocktail. Over the years, however, iced tea itself has begun to incorporate liquors into its making since mixologists have begun to study how tea responds to the addition of spirits and other refreshing flavours.

Classic iced tea can be traced back to the 19th century when tea leaves were brewed into a strong concoction and left to chill. But the drink really became popular only in 1904 when it was served chilled at a fair in Missouri. In the warm weather, hot tea was utterly unpalatable whereas chilled ice tea became a sheer elixir.  

Some simple syrup and a bit of mint were then added to this drink to infuse more flavours into it for an elevated rejuvenating touch. Through time, along with black and oolong tea, green tea has also begun to be incorporated into iced tea recipes to prepare this cooling mocktail that helps you combat the summer heat.

iced tea evolution

Iced Tea Cocktails

In the 20th century, the rise of craft cocktail culture, or the trend of bringing together quality ingredients with artisanal techniques and creative flavour combinations meant incorporating tea into cocktail making. What was once a beverage popular in tea houses where guests would come together to relax and converse over a chilled drink, an iced tea cocktail soon began to make an appearance in the rosters of bartenders in local honky tonks.

Artisanal tea and fresh herbs are now often brought together with liquors like Ciroc Ultra Premium Vodka or Captain Morgan Dark Rum to make alcoholic mixes that are complete with a depth and complexity characteristic of innovative tea drinks.

iced tea cocktails

Today, the evolution of iced tea cocktails has spread across the globe to become more than just a phenomenon with roots in the American countryscape. Now, bartenders are experimenting with Japanese and Chinese teas too, to infuse them with liquors like soju or sake which are prominently found in these regions. Such experiments have led to the curation of different matcha tea cocktails or even Thai cocktails infused with tea, coconut milk and lots of spices.

It is only evident then that iced tea cocktails have enjoyed widespread popularity because of the versatility of this brew that can incorporate different garnishes and refreshing ingredients into its making so the drink can be customised with fresh fruits, herbs and florals. Simultaneously, several fruity syrups and sweeteners are also frequently added to tea mixes to craft layered blends out of relatively simple recipes.

Iced tea cocktails figure prominently in several bars where you can order a premium boozy concoction containing these intense brews. As well, the drink is a perfectly vibrant blend that can be put together easily at home when you have to make large batch cocktails at a poolside party or summertime barbecue. The drink has a certain robust allure savoured best when it is served chilled with a citrusy garnish to lend it a tangy finish. Adding plenty of ice to the tea is what has ensured the blend’s enduring popularity, so ensure you build this cocktail on a bed of rocks when you next serve it at a house party.

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