Tart lemon and sweet sugar balance the bitterness of the black tea in this summer-friendly Lemon Bourbon Sweet Tea. Make this batch cocktail ahead of time and store it in the fridge in a pitcher for up to a week.
This batch cocktail is designed for porch-sitting, hot summer nights, and the soundtrack of cicadas. And that is exactly how we’ve been enjoying it. Poured over a big glass of ice with lemon wedges and fresh sprigs of mint, it really has been one of the most refreshing drinks I’ve had all summer. I’m not a big cocktail drinker, but this one skews refreshing over boozy. The flavor of bourbon is definitely there, but the warming spices in the tea and the freshness of lemon temper the alcohol. It’s the official drink of summer 2020 at our house.
And, let’s be real, 2020 has definitely been a year for cocktails.
Here’s how to make it.
Ingredients for Lemon Bourbon Sweet Tea
- Black Tea – Black tea is the classic tea that’s used in sweet tea. See below for my favorites.
- White Sugar, Ginger, and Lemon Juice – These ingredients are combined with water to make a flavored simple syrup.
- Bourbon – We preferred this Southern-inspired cocktail with bourbon, but we also tested it with our favorite local gin and loved those flavors as well!
- Bitters – Frank always says that bitters are like the “salt” of the cocktail world. This cocktail will taste flat without them. Don’t skip the bitters and feel free to add more, to taste.
Best Tea for Sweet Tea
Any variety of black tea can make great sweet tea. Black tea has a natural bitterness that creates balance when combined with sugar for a classic sweet tea. Earl Grey is a great option for sweet tea because it contains bergamot – a fruit that gives the tea a subtle citrus flavor.
Read the tasting notes on any black tea for other ideas. If you see other flavors that you like, you’ll probably like them when made into sweet tea.
What is Simple Syrup?
Simple syrup is a mixture made by heating water and sugar together until the sugar crystals fully dissolve. A basic simple syrup can be made with a ration of 1:1 water to sugar.
The great thing about using simple syrup in drinks is that, since the sugar crystals are fully dissolved, you can add it to cold drinks and be certain that it will mix in evenly. For Lemon Bourbon Sweet Tea, the simple syrup is flavored with ginger and lemon juice, so it adds an extra layer of flavor.
Feel free to set the syrup aside and add it to each drink individually. This gives you the ability to customize the drinks, making each one more or less sweet.
More Summer-Friendly Drinks
- Watermelon Frose
- Cold Brew Coffee Spritzer
- Passion Fruit Mojitos
- Pear and Lime Sangria
- Watermelon Lime Cooler
- All Clad Saucepan
- Wooden Citrus Reamer
- Wide Mouth 16-oz Mason Jars – I use these for absolutely everything, but they’re an especially charming (and affordable) way to serve iced tea.
Lemon Bourbon Sweet Tea
- 7 cups Water, divided
- 6 bags Black Tea (we like this with Earl Grey)
- 1 cup White Sugar
- 1 inch Ginger, peeled (optional, see note)
- 1/2 cup Lemon Juice
- 6 oz (3/4 cup) Bourbon
- 12 dashes Bitters
- Lemon Slices or Peel
- Fresh Mint
- Bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Add tea bags and brew according to package directions, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Strain off tea bags (do not squeeze or press down on the tea bags as you strain them or the tea will be bitter).
- While tea is brewing, combine 1 cup water, sugar, ginger, and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer and simmer just until the sugar is fully dissolved. Pour syrup through a fine strainer (this will remove any pieces of ginger or lemon pulp).
- Combine tea and simple syrup. (Note: Taste the tea as you go and reduce the amount of simple syrup if you’d prefer it less sweet.)
- Stir bourbon and bitters into the tea.
- At this point the tea can be refrigerated for up to a week.
- Serve tea over ice with lemon slices and / or fresh mint for garnish.
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