Chemist in the Kitchen

November 5, 2015 at 12:32 pm

Earl Grey Hot Toddy

Earl Grey Hot Toddy

Lately I’ve been craving something warm and inviting with fall flavors plus a little zing. How about, I thought to myself, a hot cup of tea? Hmm, but for the zing… let’s get a little buzz going ;)


But not just any tea, I wanted to make this cocktail out of REAL tea! Something strong and flavorful, like a fully-fermented black tea mixed with bourbon. Not all teas are created equal, and not all teas are teas. You might be thinking I’m crazy, but there is a method to the madness (and plenty of madness to the method).


Hot Toddy Portrait


Despite the tea aisle of your local grocery store being stocked full of every type of “tea” you could ever imagine, I am sorry to report that most of those teas are really not teas (don’t shoot the messenger!). There is actually only one type of plant that is tea, and that is the plant species Camellia sinensis, plus some hybrid variations of it along with variations that arise from where it is grown. The leaves of this shrub can then be made into three different categories of tea by fermentation, in this case by certain enzymes oxidizing the tannin molecules present in the tea leaves. Tea leaves that have not been fermented at all are known as green tea, semi-fermented tea leaves are known as oolong tea, and fully-fermented teas are known as black teas. Black teas are the most common as there are so many varieties based on a lot of variabilities that may be added to the fermentation process, thus giving rise to the various types of black teas available in the market today (Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Ceylon, Darjeeling, Assam, Keemun, Souchong, and the list goes on and on and on…).


So what about herbal teas? Chamomile, lavender, peppermint, mint, etc.? Not a single herbal tea is actually a tea, but rather a tisane: a liquid beverage made from steeping herbs and spices in hot water to create an infusion of flavor and aroma. In theory, you can make a tisane out of just about any plant you can find. You could even make a poison ivy tisane if you really wanted to (not recommended).


Hot Toddy Landscape


And with no further ado, I present to you a robust real tea cocktail: the Earl Grey Hot Toddy. Drink responsibly, pinkies up.


With love,



Earl Grey Hot Toddy

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 1 cocktail

Earl Grey Hot Toddy


  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 2 Earl Grey tea bags
  • 1 jigger (1.5 ounces) bourbon whiskey
  • 1 pony (1 ounce) lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 lemon wedge studded with 3 cloves


  1. Boil the water and pour over Earl Grey tea bags. Allow to brew for 10 minutes.
  2. Remove the tea bags and pour the earl grey tea into a small saucepan. Heat on medium low for 10-12 minutes until reduced to approximately 3/4 cup.
  3. Combine in a large mug with the bourbon, honey, and lemon juice. Garnish with cinnamon stick and clove-studded lemon. Serve immediately.

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