Bartenders Turn to Tea

February 2016
By: Kathleen Squires, Restaurant Business Online

Bringing a whole new meaning to “tea party,” mixologists across the country are adopting teas—from basic black to herbal—as all-natural mixers. Not only does the trend satisfy consumers’ ever-growing thirst for new spins on cocktails, incorporating tea into the bar program is a low-cost, low-laboroption, say mixologists and restaurateurs.

Tea is among the fastest-growing ingredients in spirit-based beverages at chains, rising by nearly a third in the past two years, according to Technomic. Bottled sweet-tea-flavored vodka, introduced by several spirits brands in the last five years, may have turned customers on to the idea, but now mixologists are experimenting with tea as a flavoring element in handcrafted cocktails, in the form of tea tinctures, bitters, syrups and other infused spirits.

Brian Landry, executive chef at Borgne in New Orleans, incorporates tea into his Honeysuckle Hottie Toddy ($12) and has found the blend of hot chamomile tea and honeysuckle-infused vodka to be a profitable way to differentiate the winter cocktail list. “When the weather turns cool, which in NOLA is a very short season, warm cocktails are very well received by our customers,” Landry says. “Most people are used to hot buttered rum and some of the richer cocktails, so a hot tea-based cocktail is a light, refreshing way to add a warm cocktail to the mix,” he says.