Love a tall, cold glass of sweet tea in summer? Want that exact flavor transported into a bracingly refreshing cocktail? Look no further than Bols Sweet Tea Liqueur.
Sweet tea-flavored spirits seem to be something of a mini-trend right now. There are a number of sweet tea vodkas produced by distillers such as Firefly, Seagram's, and Burnett's - and even a sweet tea bourbon too.
I recently tried out one of the newest additions to the boozy sweet tea family: Bols Sweet Tea Liqueur ($12.99/1L), which was just launched in the U.S. in May of this year.
Taste This liqueur is light and clean-tasting. Not at all syrupy or cloying. It's a dead ringer for the flavor of fresh-made sweet tea with an added boozy kick. But at 24% ABV (alcohol by volume) this booziness is by no means overpowering. It's a little higher than Lillet (17%), but about on par with that other summertime favorite, Pimm's (25%).
But Why Not Just Use Fresh Tea? I had a nagging DIY question. I'd used tea in cocktails before: pouring some of the freshly brewed stuff into drinks such as the Green Tea Mojito and the Russian Caravan Cocktail. So what I wanted to know was Why not just add strong tea to a spirit? What does this sweet tea liqueur offer a drinker beyond just a tea-brewing shortcut?
Mixologist Charlotte Voisey, who was commissioned by Bols to design cocktails using their Sweet Tea Liqueur, had some answers: "Tea in cocktails is a real challenge to anything but an experienced, masterful hand due to the high water content." And it's true, this liqueur does deliver a whole lot of flavor without a lot of added volume or wateriness. "One could brew a strong tea and add to vodka in a cocktail but it would not come close to the intensity of flavor obtained with Bols."
Her beautifully balanced recipes are a testament to these principles. I tried out two of them at home. Both are served straight up, packing maximum sweet tea flavor into just a few ounces of liquid: the super-simple, 2-ingredient Lemon Tea Drop, as well as the slightly more elaborate English Breakfast Cocktail. The results were delicious.
Lemon Tea Drop (by Charlotte Voisey, used with permission)
makes one cocktail
2 ounces Bols Sweet Tea Liqueur 1 ounce fresh lemon juice garnishes: lemon wedge and sugar for rimming the glass (I used lemon wedge only)
Combine liqueur and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a cocktail glass with a sugar rim and garnish with a lemon wedge.
Tasting Notes: This simple recipe is amazingly fresh and delicious. You get that true sweet tea taste with a generous dash of lemony tartness to balance and brighten it up.
English Breakfast Cocktail (by Charlotte Voisey, used with permission)
makes one cocktail
1 ounce Bols Sweet Tea Liqueur 1 ounce St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur 1 ounce fresh lemon juice 1/2 teaspoon orange marmalade dash of egg white (I left this out) garnish: orange peel
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with orange peel.
Tasting Notes: Similar to the Lemon Tea drop, but with a lot more complexity. The St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur really stands out and the marmalade gives it a little extra warmth.
Have you tried Bols or any other sweet tea-flavored spirits?
Nora Maynard is a longtime home mixologist and an occasional instructor at NYC’s Astor Center. She is a contributor to The Business of Food: Encyclopedia of the Food and Drink Industries and is the recipient of the American Egg Board Fellowship in culinary writing at the Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow. She previously covered food and drink in film at The Kitchn in her weekly column, The Celluloid Pantry.