Brett Oye, the lead bartender at BRABO in Alexandria, Va., was sipping a rooibos chai when he had a revelation.
“I’d had chai ice cream, chai cake, even chai milkshakes, but I’d never had it in a cocktail,” Oye told VinePair. “As it turns out, chai mixes well with booze!”
Inspired, Oye created Irish Chai, a variation on Irish Coffee infused with rooibos tea.
Rooibos isn’t the only tea that mixes well with spirits. Tea-infused cocktails are popping up nationwide. Mixologists utilize everything from Bombay chai to chamomile leaves, crafting libations with distinctive botanical notes.
Check out five of the country’s best tea-infused cocktails — and a recipe for BRABO’s Irish Chai.
Cure, New Orleans, LA
Old Fashioned fans will appreciate this riff made with smoked black tea, chocolate, and rhubarb. It’s served on the rocks and garnished with a lemon peel.
Tanner Smith’s, New York, NY
In a nod to early 20th-century NYC, Tanner Smith’s serves boozy punches out of teapots — something speakeasies did to hide alcohol. One such offering is The Waterfront, made with vodka, pisco, watermelon, rhubarb, and strawberries. Bombay chai tea, lemon, cardamom seeds, and milk are added for spice and flavor.
Get Well Soon
HoDo Lounge, Fargo, ND
Precious & Grace
The Rieger, Kansas City, MO
The Precious & Grace combines J. Rieger & Co. gin, benedictine, white chocolate, and pistachio orgeat with cream and matcha, giving it a sweet, herbaceous flavor.
BRABO, Alexandria, VA
This variation on an Irish Coffee was inspired by Oye’s love of chai and his desire to create a hot, caffeine-free cocktail for BRABO’s after-dinner drinks menu.
Recipe: BRABO’s Irish Chai
1 ounce rooibos chai syrup (recipe follows)
1 ½ ounces Irish whiskey
2 ounces heavy cream
- Pour rooibos chai syrup and whiskey into a 6-ounce, heat-proof mug.
- Top with hot water to just below rim.
- Shake or whisk heavy cream until thick but still liquid. Pour over top, taking care to float the cream without integrating it into the drink.
- Top with grated nutmeg.
Rooibos Chai Syrup
32 ounces demerara sugar
24 ounces hot rooibos chai tea
- Dissolve sugar into tea to create a syrup, stirring to combine.
- Let cool.
- Store in the refrigerator, covered, for up to two months.