Bourbon Sweat Tea Cocktail Recipe

Bourbon Sweat Tea Cocktail: Recipe and History

In the heart of the American South, where hospitality flows as freely as the rivers winding through rolling hills, there exists a timeless fusion of flavors—the bourbon and sweet tea cocktail. 

From front porches to lively gatherings, this iconic drink captures the essence of warm summer afternoons and the camaraderie that binds us all. So grab your mason jar, fill it with ice, and let’s raise a toast to the perfect blend of Southern spirits!

The Sweet Tea and Bourbon Cocktail

Let’s make a delightful sweet tea and bourbon cocktail.


  • 4 cups cold water
  • 2 family-sized cold-brew black tea bags (Luzianne)
  • 2 peach-flavored black tea bags (Celestial Seasonings Country Peach Passion)
  • 15 ounces bourbon (such as Buffalo Trace)
  • 2 1/2 ounces simple syrup
  • Ice
  • Lemon wedges
  • Fresh mint sprigs (optional)


  1. Combine the water and tea bags in a large pitcher or jar. Let the tea steep at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours.

  2. Remove the tea bags and add the bourbon and simple syrup to the pitcher. Stir to combine.

  3. Serve in tall Collins glasses over ice, garnished with lemon wedges and fresh mint if desired.

This cocktail captures the essence of the South—sweet tea meets the warmth of bourbon. Enjoy sipping this refreshing blend on a hot summer day!

The Key to an Excellent Sweet Tea 

The key to making the best sweet tea lies in a few simple but crucial steps. Here’s how you can achieve that perfect glass of Southern sweet tea:

Quality Tea:
  1. Start with good-quality tea leaves. Whether you prefer black tea or a blend, choose a brand that you enjoy. Loose-leaf tea or high-quality tea bags work well.
  2. Common choices for sweet tea include Ceylon, Darjeeling, or a classic black tea blend.
Fresh Water:
  1. Use fresh, cold water to brew your tea. Avoid using hot tap water, as it may contain impurities that affect the flavor.
  2. Filtered water is ideal, but if tap water is your only option, let it run for a few seconds to ensure freshness.
Brewing Time and Temperature:
  1. Steep the tea for the right amount of time. Oversteeping can make the tea bitter.
  2. For black tea, steep for 3 to 5 minutes. Adjust based on your taste preference.
  3. Use boiling water (around 212°F or 100°C) for black tea.
  1. Add sugar while the tea is still warm. This allows the sugar to dissolve completely.
  2. The amount of sugar depends on personal preference. Start with 1 cup of sugar per gallon of tea and adjust from there.
  3. Some people prefer a simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water) for better integration.
Chill and Serve:
  1. Once the tea has steeped and the sugar is dissolved, remove the tea bags or strain loose leaves.
  2. Chill the tea in the refrigerator until it’s cold.
  3. Serve over ice with a slice of lemon or a sprig of mint for extra freshness.
  4. Variations:
  5. Experiment with flavor variations. You can add a hint of citrus (orange peel or lemon zest) or a few crushed berries to infuse the tea.
  6. For a twist, try using herbal teas like mint or chamomile for a caffeine-free sweet tea.

Remember, the best sweet tea is a balance of strong tea flavor, sweetness, and refreshing coldness.

The History of Tea in the South

Tea has a long and intriguing history in the Southern United States. Here are some key points:

Early Tea Cultivation

In the late 1700s, South Carolina became the first place in the United States where tea was grown commercially. French explorer and botanist André Michaux imported tea plants, along with other beautiful camellias, gardenias, and azaleas, to suit the aesthetic desires of wealthy Charleston planters.

Michaux planted tea near Charleston at Middleton Barony, now known as Middleton Place Gardens. By the 1800s, tea was being cultivated and served in the South.

Cold Tea Punches

English and American cookbooks from the early 19th century show that tea was served cold. Cold green tea punches, often spiked with liquor, were popularized during this time. These tea punches had names like “Regent’s Punch” and “Chatham Artillery Punch.”

Iced Tea’s Rise

The popularity of iced tea paralleled the development of refrigeration technology. The availability of ice houses, iceboxes (early refrigerators), and commercial ice production allowed for the widespread enjoyment of iced tea. The term “refrigerator” was used for the first patented icebox in 1803.

Sweet Tea Emerges

The oldest sweet tea recipe in print comes from the 1879 cookbook “Housekeeping in Old Virginia.” This recipe combined black tea with sugar, creating the classic sweet tea we know today. 

The History of Bourbon in the South

Bourbon, the quintessential American spirit, also has deep roots in the South

Kentucky’s Influence

Although there’s no law mandating that bourbon must be produced in Kentucky, the state dominates the world’s bourbon production. Approximately 95% of the world’s bourbon whiskey is made in Kentucky.

The state’s unique geological features contribute to its success: vast deposits of blue limestone filter out unwanted minerals, resulting in sweet-tasting water. Kentucky’s wide temperature swings—from chilly winters to hot summers—also play a role. The alternating expansion and contraction of charred oak barrels allow bourbon to absorb and release flavors.

Settlers and Corn

Settlers who crossed the Appalachian Mountains in the late 1700s discovered that Kentucky’s soil was perfect for growing corn. Immigrants from Germany, Scotland, and Ireland brought their whiskey-distilling knowledge to the region. Corn became the dominant grain, leading to the distinctive style of corn-based whiskey that would become bourbon.

Elijah Craig and the Legend

While the story that Baptist minister Elijah Craig accidentally invented bourbon by storing whiskey in charred barrels is likely a legend, it adds to the mystique of this beloved spirit.


The Bourbon Tea Cocktail celebrates the art of combining contrasting elements into a harmonious and inviting experience. With every sip, you're transported to the verandas of the South, where hospitality reigns and flavors intertwine. 

Whether enjoyed on a leisurely afternoon or as an evening indulgence, this cocktail captures the essence of both worlds it represents. So, as you partake in this exquisite fusion, raise your glass to the convergence of tradition and innovation that make the Bourbon Tea Cocktail a true gem in the world of mixology.

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