Liqueurs, sweetened infusions, have long been used as digestifs: quick little shots to aid digestion after an especially hearty meal, like Christmas dinner. To make a homemade liqueur, you simply infuse ingredients into a base liquor, then sweeten the resulting liquid. Some liqueurs, like a ratafia of quince, can take months to make. But you can make a really delicious, intriguing tea liqueur in just a few hours.
Think of this recipe as more of an equation: Keep the proportions and change up the ingredients. For this version, I used a chai tea with a rooibos base. The blend of spices, once infused into vodka and sweetened, makes a natural complement to seasonal desserts like a nutmeg-spiked cake. But I’ve also made very good tea liqueurs with genmai cha, Earl Grey and, one of my favorites, jasmine green tea. Vodka is a good neutral base, but feel free to try other liquors. As for the sweetener, honey and sugar syrup work equally well – they just bring different flavors to the final result. (Sugar elevates the intrinsic flavors of the tea, whereas honey brings its own character.) If you want to dabble before committing to the volume of this recipe, just scale it down accordingly. It’s perfect for bottling up and gifting to loved ones — whether they share it with guests or sneak swigs while cleaning up in the kitchen is up to them.
Homemade Tea Liqueur Recipe
Prep Time: 5 min
Cook Time: 15 min
Total Time: 10 hr 20 min
Yield: about 5 cups
6 tablespoons loose tea, such as chai tea with a rooibos base, genmai cha, Earl Grey or jasmine green tea
1 750 ml bottle of vodka
1 cup honey or sugar
1 cup water
Add the tea to a 1-quart container with a sealable lid. Pour the vodka in to cover. Cover, and gently shake well to combine. Set aside, shaking gently periodically.
Your infusion should take no more than 10 hours, but possibly less, depending on the intensity of flavorings and tannins in your tea. Start tasting within a few hours, and when it reaches a level you like, it’s ready.
Meanwhile, make a syrup by combining 1 cup each honey (or sugar) and water in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar (if using) is dissolved, and the mixture is well combined and transparent. Remove from heat and cool completely. Strain the infusion through a coffee filter. Discard the filter and leaves.
Combine the strained infusion and syrup, and stir or shake to blend. Keep in a sealed glass container until ready to serve. Chill if desired, or serve at room temperature.
As this recipe makes about 5 cups, it also makes a nice gift. Simply pour into attractive bottles, and send your guests home with a little sip to enjoy later.
Sean Timberlake is a professional writer, amateur foodie, avid traveler and all-around bon vivant. He is the founder of Punk Domestics, a content and community site for DIY food enthusiasts, and has penned the blog Hedonia since 2006. He lives in San Francisco with his husband, DPaul Brown, and their hyperactive terrier, Reese.