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.–David Leite

Sweet Tea Cocktail FAQs

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.

How do you make sun tea?

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. 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. Author Anne Stiles Quantrano suggests a ratio of 1 ounce bagged tea to a gallon of water.

When removing the tea bag from the water, use tongs or a slotted spoon. And never squeeze the bag back into the tea when removing it, as that can cause bitterness.

What type of glass do you suggest I serve this in?

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…”We’ve served these cocktails in plastic stemless wine glasses, 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.”

Three glasses of sweet tea cocktail on a wooden table.

Sweet Tea Cocktail

4.67 / 6 votes
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.
David Leite
CourseDrinks
CuisineSouthern
Servings2 servings
Calories199 kcal
Prep Time5 minutes
Total Time5 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 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

Instructions 

  • 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.
Summerland Cookbook

Adapted From

Summerland

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Nutrition

Serving: 1 cocktailCalories: 199 kcalCarbohydrates: 27 gProtein: 1 gFat: 1 gSaturated Fat: 1 gMonounsaturated Fat: 1 gSodium: 17 mgFiber: 3 gSugar: 19 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2013 Anne Stiles Quatrano. Photo © 2013 Brian Woodcock. All rights reserved.


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.

Before seeing this sweet tea cocktail recipe, I’d never had or even heard of white whiskey. So I made a trip to the local wine and spirits merchant, but unfortunately, they didn’t carry the brand recommended. They were currently out of the Jim Beam version, so my only choice was Old Smoky Moonshine, which I was assured was a white whiskey with a little marketing flair.

The cocktail itself I found to be extremely drinkable. It tasted just like a lemon sweet tea, with an underlying kick. A perfect lazy afternoon cocktail.

Simple to throw together and pretty as well, this sweet tea cocktail is a good choice for a summer tea party. The tea was a little too sweet for my taste, but that’s southern sweet tea for you. (I found that 1-ounce simple syrup, rather than the 1 1/2 ounces listed in the recipe, was much better suited to my palate.)

We have a lot of great local distilleries here in Virginia, and I used some Catoctin Creek Mosby’s Spirit, an organic white whiskey, that we had sitting around, and it worked great. Mosby is fairly expensive though, so if you’re making large amounts of this drink, you might want to use a slightly less expensive option such as Sobieski, a quality Polish rye vodka.

Although the weather outside didn’t seem like the ideal time to have this, I made this sweet tea cocktail recipe for my husband and me after a long day of painting the main floor of the house. It seemed just the refreshing tonic for bodies weary from climbing up and down a ladder.

This is not tea for the faint-hearted. It certainly had a kick to it. I found the flavors quite well-balanced, although personally, I found it was a bit too strong for me.

Although I tested this sweet tea cocktail while being snowbound, I know it would make a delightful summer drink. It’s certainly simple enough to make and it was very well-received by my tasters. I made sun tea, setting it in a sunny window to brew.




About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.


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8 Comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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!