On a long, slow, hot day, when all you want is an ice-cold beverage….don’t make this drink. Make a mint julep or a Tom Collins or a Southside – they’re easy and refreshing. Southern Mint Tea – similar to the sweet tea that’s served in the Southern parts of the USA – is easy and refreshing, too, but it takes aaaaaages to make, since you have to wait until the tea is cold – ice cold – before you can serve it.
The good news is, it’s worth the wait. This heady, instantly addictive mixture – not too sweet, not too tannin-y, with as much or as little bourbon as you’d like – tastes like the kind of thing you’d sip while sitting on a back porch in a cane chair overlooking your plantation, fanning your face occasionally as beads of sweat trickled down your face in a somehow alluring, not gross, manner towards your pristine white outfit, just like in all those cliched movies you’ve seen set in the South.
So check the weather forecast, and if there’s a hot day on the horizon, make this recipe the night before. Then you can sit around in your underpants next to the air-con unit drinking and feeling smug, which isn’t the traditional method of drinking a Southern-style ice tea but hey, whatever works for you…
8 cups water
1/2 cup white sugar
8 black tea bags (do not, repeat, DO NOT use Irish Breakfast or Earl Grey or any other fancy tea bags or the flavour will be all wrong)
Juice of 1-2 oranges (I used one-and-a-half)
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
This will make about 2 litres of iced tea, which is about 16 serves. It’s delicious as it is but it seems to be missing something….ah yes, the bourbon. It’s up to you how much you add per serve – I used 45 ml, but you might like to make it weaker/stronger. Don’t use your best bourbon – save that for a fancier cocktail. I used a cheapie and it worked out just fine.
Boil 4 cups of water and pour into a large bowl or saucepan.
Add the tea bags and sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved. If your tea bags have those little paper tags on them, you might like to cut them off before adding the bags to the water. Otherwise you’ll end up with soggy bits of paper in your drink. Ugh.
Leave it to steep for 10 minutes, then remove the tea bags.
Add 4 cups of cold water and the orange juice. Chill the mixture in the fridge (you can pour it into a large jug first, or just leave it in the saucepan.)
Just before serving, add the mint leaves and bruise them against the side of the jug/saucepan with the back of a spoon so they release their refreshing flavour.
Half-fill a tumbler with ice, then three-quarters fill the glass with ice tea. Strain out the mint leaves as you go, or leave em in; it’s up to you.
Add however much bourbon you like (as I said, I used 45ml), garnish with a mint sprig and serve.
Store any leftover ice tea in the fridge; it will last for a few days.
If you’re feeling especially hipster-ish you can store the leftovers in a mason jar, like the one below, which has been converted into a cobbler-style cocktail shaker. Bonus: thanks to the in-built strainer, it’s easy to strain out the mint leaves as you pour yourself yet another glass.
DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY
The hardest part is the long, slow wait for the tea to cool. It’s best to make the tea the night before you plan to serve it so the wait isn’t so frustrating (translation: you can let it cool while you’re drinking something else).
This Southern Mint Tea recipe is a mash-up of this recipe by The Bitten Word and this recipe by Joy the Baker. So while we’re claiming it as our own, really, we couldn’t have done it without them.