On the Sauce: Sage Sweet Tea and Lemon cocktail

Make your own sweet tea vodka and turn that $12 bottle into a truly original drink.

When it comes to summertime beverages, it doesn’t get more refreshing than a tall glass of iced sweet tea. Several years ago, liquor companies recognized the potential of this Southern staple and started making sweet tea-flavored vodka. I think I spent one summer exclusively day-drinking John Daly’s (sweet tea vodka and lemonade) on the patio. Ugh, the hangovers were terrible.

This week, we’re making our own sweet tea vodka at home, and a cocktail to go along with it. The beauty of this vodka is that you have total control. Looking to make Tito’s sweet tea vodka? No problem. Got a favorite tea you’d like to use? Let’s do it. Prefer a lightly sweetened sweet tea? Yep, that works, too. You can even infuse your creation with more flavors to fashion a truly original drink, just as our recipe has planned.

We need to get started our tea infusion first, and lucky for us, since the last time I whipped this up, the caffeine gods have made it easier. While shopping for ingredients at my neighborhood grocer, I noticed there’s now a thing called “cold brewed” tea, meaning we don’t have to boil water to brew it. Pick your preferred brand and follow the package’s instructions. In my case, one tea bag yielded one quart of tea — or, conveniently, one bottle of vodka.

This is where the fun comes in. Next, we sweeten our freshly brewed sweet tea vodka as much, or little, as we like. Here, there’s also an opportunity to throw in some interesting new flavors. I like my tea rather sweet, so I made a cup of simple syrup and added fresh sage leaves to the saucepan while it simmered. I’ve done something similar with basil before (I’d imagine any herb would be fine), but the sage really complements our cocktail of the week.

Ready to turn a $12 bottle of vodka into a one-of-a-kind, naturally flavored spirit in no more than 15 minutes? I’ll drink to that.

click to enlarge On the Sauce: Sage Sweet Tea and Lemon cocktail
Chris Fasick

Sage-Infused Sweet Tea Vodka

Makes 750 milliliters

1 750-milliliter bottle vodka

1 cold-brewed tea bag (follow package instructions)

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

12-15 fresh sage leaves

In a large jar, pour in vodka and tea bag. Allow to sit. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, bring water to a boil and add sugar. Stir until dissolved. Reduce heat to simmer and add sage leaves. Stir for a few minutes and strain into the tea-infused vodka, then stir.

Sage Sweet Tea and Lemon Cocktail

Makes 1

3 ounces sweet tea vodka

Juice of half a lemon

2-3 ounces tonic, or club soda

Fill a tall glass or Mason jar with ice. Add vodka, lemon and tonic. Lightly stir to mix and garnish with a lemon wheel and sage leaf.

Follow @cfasick on Twitter, or email him at [email protected] if there's a cocktail or recipe you'd like featured.

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