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Iced Tea Cocktails: why stop at Long Island?

Summer’s been going for a while now and we’ve almost got used to not wearing socks and the joy of late summer evenings. And the best bit? Iced tea cocktails.

You’ll probably be well-acquainted with the Tea-Jay by now, our signature bit of kit for creating cascading colourful cocktails from your favourite loose leaf infusion. Simply add ice, syrup, a splash of juice and a handful of chopped fruit.

Find out more on our Tea Jay page, and here’s a few facts to put the cocktail in context. Something to impress your guests while you’re showing off your mixology…

What’s in a name?

The origins of the term ‘cocktail’ are hotly contested.

In the 18th century the word was originally used to refer to a horse with its tail cut short. No ‘horse walked into a bar’ jokes please…

In 1806 a cocktail was defined as ‘a stimulating liquor composed of any kind of sugar, water and bitters, vulgarly called a bittered sling.’ For the record, the term ‘sling’ came from the German word “schlingen,” meaning to swallow quickly. Hmm…

We like the theory that the term originated from the French word ‘coquetel’, an eggcup used for serving drinks.

Less palatable is the idea that the drinks were stirred with a cock’s tail – apparently a tradition in Mexico. Perhaps best to go for shaken in that case.

Photo 3: Wikimedia Commons/Axarus  

Why mix?

As the name ‘sling’ might suggest, the reason for mixing spirits, bitters and syrups arose mainly from the need to mask the medicinal taste of the alcohol. A spoonful of sugar and all that.

Victorian tea blending had a similar ethos: the strong, malty taste of the original British blends was largely down to an attempt to mask the brackish quality of the London water. Our Original and 1886 black tea are inspired by the blends developed at the time, though we’ve perfected the recipe to suit modern tastes.

Published in 1869, the first British cocktail recipe book had a rather lovely name: ‘Cooling Cups and Dainty Drinks’. The opening recipe was for a Gin Cocktail made with brandy or gin, ginger syrup, aromatic bitters, and a splash of water. Considering the TCP taste of Victorian gin, no wonder they went for ginger…

The invention of the classic Old Fashioned (a mix of bourbon, club soda and bitters) in the early 20th century also came down to a desperate attempt to make the original whisky that bit more palatable. And the same goes for the Singapore Sling.

Photo: Flickr/PersonalCreations

Things can only get better…

If you’re feeling disheartened about the cocktail’s backstory, never fear. While war rationing and prohibition brought about favourites like the Dacquiri and the Martini, by the 1960s spirits were high and cocktails were designed to taste good. In other words, better than ‘not bad’.

Suddenly everyone was going mad for fruity mixes like the Mai Tai and exotic liqueur cocktails like the Harvey Wallbanger. The arrival of vodka based cocktails at the height of the Cold War served to lessen the tension.

In the 80s mixologists developed a fondness for kitschy Piña Coladas and the 90s went wild for Long Island Iced Tea. By that point it had become a competition to develop the booziest mix you could muster and, with its combination of vodka, tequila, rum and gin, Long Island Iced Tea topped the charts.

Iced tea cocktails needed a refresh. Today’s mixology is all about creating original new flavours, whether it’s an Earl Grey Martini or a Tea-Mojito. For Alice’s Day we celebrated with Mock Turtle cocktails and Very Berry Pomegranate Punch, and our hot chocolates make for rather delicious spiked milkshakes. Why not try our White Hot Chocolate as a creamy White Russian?

And of course, you could always go tea total. The Tea-Jay is a good place to start…

Got an idea for a new cocktail concoction? Show us on social - post a photo on our Facebook wall, tweet us, or tag us on Instagram.

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