Sweet Tea Cocktail

This sweet tea cocktail is essentially sweet tea, whiskey, lemon juice, and ice. What results is a sassy and superlative Southern cocktail you’ll want to sip all afternoon long.

Three glasses of sweet tea cocktail on a wooden table.

Southern sweet tea cocktail. Whiskey. Lemon juice. It’s like the most sublime summertime take on a hot toddy you can imagine. Pass us another, please.–Renee Schettler


In the book in which we found this spectacular sweet tea cocktail recipe, author Anne Stiles Quatrano shares how the sweet tea cocktail is served in the South…

“In the South, you can’t have a garden party—or any summer get-together, for that matter—without sweet tea. This is a sweet tea-based cocktail with a kick of white whiskey. The white whiskey has a smooth, clean flavor, perfectly suited to a daytime cocktail. For the tea, we use Harney & Sons, but any orange pekoe tea will work.

In the summer, the easiest brewing method is to combine the tea and water in a large glass jar or pitcher, cover the top, and leave it in the sun for a few hours. If you don’t have time to make sun tea, you can of course pour hot water over the teabag. Or, if you have a cold-brewing device, you could put it to use in this recipe. After making a great deal of iced tea in our restaurants, we’ve discovered a couple of tricks for optimal flavor. We suggest a ratio of 1 ounce bagged tea to a gallon of water. When we remove the tea bag from the water, we never use our hands, because it can lend an unpleasantly bitter flavor to the finished tea. Instead, we use tongs or a slotted spoon. And we never squeeze the bag back into the tea when we remove it, as we find that also causes bitterness.

We’ve served these cocktails in plastic stemless wine glasses from Govino, which are great for a large party, as they don’t break and can be washed and used again. And if a few glasses do happen to wander off, they’re easily replaceable. However, for a smaller crowd or a slightly more formal event, you could use real stemless wine glasses, highball glasses, or mint julep cups.”

Sweet Tea Cocktail

Three glasses of sweet tea cocktail on a wooden table.
In the South, you can’t have a garden party—or any summer get-together, for that matter—without sweet tea. This is a sweet-tea-based cocktail with a kick of white whiskey.
Anne Stiles Quatrano

Prep 5 mins
Total 5 mins
2 servings
199 kcal
4.67 / 3 votes
Print RecipeBuy the Summerland cookbook

Want it? Click it.


  • 6 ounces (3/4 cup) brewed orange pekoe tea cooled
  • 3 ounces (1/3 cup) whiskey (preferably American Spirit white whiskey*)
  • 1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) Simple Syrup
  • 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) fresh lemon juice
  • Ice
  • 2 lemon slices preferably organic, for garnish


  • Combine the tea, whiskey, Simple Syrup, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously.
  • Strain the cocktail into 2 glasses filled with fresh ice. Garnish each with a lemon slice.
Print RecipeBuy the Summerland cookbook

Want it? Click it.


*What is white whiskey?

Whiskey is one thing (and don't even get us started on whisky) and white whiskey is close—but different. Think of it as whiskey's younger sibling. It's a raw, unfinished product that's on its way to becoming whiskey but isn't quite there yet. The color of whiskey comes from being aged in casks and maturing, growing up if you will. Essentially, it just came out of the still and hasn't touched the inside of a barrel. It's not quite as smooth as anything aged but it does have its charms, sweetness and the taste of fresh-cut grain among them. However, we do recommend mixing it, just to subdue its teenage voice.

Show Nutrition

Serving: 1cocktailCalories: 199kcal (10%)Carbohydrates: 27g (9%)Protein: 1g (2%)Fat: 1g (2%)Saturated Fat: 1g (6%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 17mg (1%)Potassium: 209mg (6%)Fiber: 3g (13%)Sugar: 19g (21%)Vitamin A: 25IU (1%)Vitamin C: 63mg (76%)Calcium: 32mg (3%)Iron: 1mg (6%)

Recipe Testers' Reviews

Oh, my stars, what a delicious way to take tea in the afternoon. While it’s in the minus double digits here as I test this sweet tea cocktail, sipping this easy-to-make drink transported me to warmer places. The simple syrup is almost too easy to make and leaves enough left over to make drinks for a crowd.

I brewed a good loose-leaf orange pekoe and allowed it to cool. After that, it’s as simple as juicing a lemon, cutting the garnish, and a quick shake-shake, and you're ready. I think this is my new favorite cocktail. Just a quick note, while I chose the long soaking method of brewing loose-leaf tea to use in the cocktail, my son chose to use the Tassimo and did a quick brew of orange pekoe. It was almost as good, so this could be made in a hurry if necessary. I also might add a scooch more simple syrup, as I like my tea on the sweeter side.

Full disclosure: I’m a northerner who doesn’t normally drink sweet tea. However, I can fully support drinking this sweet tea cocktail. The problem is that it doesn’t taste boozy in the least. It’s sassy and sweet and very easy to drink. When you stand up, though, you’ll be reminded that it’s loaded with whiskey. No matter. Day drinking never tasted so good.

Originally published July 3, 2014


#leitesculinaria on Instagram If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.


  1. I prefer a good grade of rum, like Mount Gay, or a white popskull like Cruzan. And this makes the classic planter’s punch:
    One of sour (juice of a lemon or lime)
    Two of sweet (sugar syrup to taste)
    Three of strong (alcohol) and
    Four of weak (cold black tea)

    Don’t go looking for white liquor unless you know someone who makes it.

  2. If you can find it, Luzianne makes wonderful iced tea. It’s the gold standard in the deep South. 5 family sized bags and one cup of sugar is the typical ratio, although to try and mitigate some of the adverse health sequela of drinking South Georgia iced tea, I’ve started using 1/4 cup of Truvia Baking Blend per gallon.

  3. 5 stars
    I’m from Mississippi and here we have another tea-based libation for summer called Bourbon Slush. It is pretty much the same recipe with the addition of a little orange juice, then frozen to slush consistency. I’ve served it from a punch bowl and let me tell you it will really get the party going!

Have something to say?

Then tell us. Have a picture you'd like to add to your comment? Attach it below. And as always, please take a gander at our comment policy before posting.

Rate this recipe!

Have you tried this recipe? Let us know what you think.

Upload a picture of your dish