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How to Make Proper Iced Tea (4 of 5) - Building a Drink

 

In part 4 of our 5 part How to Make Proper Iced Tea series we are now ready to take our iced tea to the next level. It goes without saying that you may well already be satisfied with simply enjoying your hot or cold-brewed tea over ice, with or without a little sweetness added. However, if you want to turn your iced tea into something even more delicious - into an exciting summer creation to proudly serve at your next BBQ - you’ll need to know the basics of building a drink. 

At Good & Proper we are lucky enough to have an ex-cocktail barman in our midst, and it was when we started to apply his mixology skills to iced tea that things started to get really exciting. Because aside from the missing alcoholic ingredient, cocktails and iced teas are much the same - the art is in balancing each of the flavours in the drink to create something better than the sum of its parts. 

RELATED: How to Make Proper Iced Tea: Cold Brew Method

A basic formula

Most of us gravitate towards something simple to titivate our drinks, like a little honey and a slice of lemon. But if you’re keen to create something more elaborate, it helps to have a basic formula to work to. You will almost certainly deviate from it as you start to play around but the below basic recipe serves as a helpful template from which to get creative. 

Iced Tea Recipe

This basic recipe is a good starting point from which to get creative:

  • 150ml tea ‘liquid’ (either 150ml chilled tea or 100ml chilled tea + 50ml soda water)
  • 15ml sour (eg citrus such as lemon or lime juice)
  • 15ml sweet (eg sugar syrup or honey)
  • Garnish
  • Ice

Choosing what to use as your sweet or sour element, as well as how to garnish, will then come down to what tea you are hero-ing in your drink. 

RELATED: How to Make Proper Iced Tea: Hot Brew Method

The Sweet

We know from the Introducing Sweetness part of our series that there are a variety of ways to introduce the sweet element to your drink. Choose between the neutral flavour of white sugar or simple syrup and the caramel notes of brown sugar, or for something more floral go for honey or agave. 

RELATED: How to Make Proper Iced Tea: Introducing Sweetness

The Sour
When it comes to citrus there are no right or wrong combinations, but there is some science to it. Lemon juice gives you a clean, crisp citrus hit up up front, which then fades to make room for more of the tea flavour and polyphenols in the drink - it therefore tends to work well with darker teas. Lime juice, by contrast, gives you less of the up front hit, but more of a complex, lingering zing, which is well-suited to teas with more vegetal notes. Limes are also more sour than lemons, so you’ll get more acidity in the final drink using limes.  The Garnish

Garnishes are not only about visual appeal - they also add aromatics and subtle flavours to the final drink. For simple garnishes at home we like to work with fresh fruit and herbs, from lemon slices, lime wedges or orange zest to fresh herbs such as mint, thyme, rosemary or basil. Fruit slices will enhance fresh fruit flavours already in the drink, while using the zest by creating a ‘twist’ with a lemon or orange adds a more subtle fruit aroma - particularly when rubbed around the rim of the glass. Herbs such as cooling mint, fragrant rosemary or sweet, yet peppery basil add an extra layer of aromatics to the drink. 

Tips from the top


We are lucky enough to have worked with friend and cocktail-craftsman Sam, aka The Rum Runner, on cocktails for past events. A big fan of iced tea, he says ‘teas are super versatile and work with just about any combination of citrus, fruit and herbs. For me, black teas lend themselves better to hard herbs and fruit, whereas green and white teas work well with more fragrant notes and softer herbs’. 

A few other tips: 

  • You can build your drink in the glass, but shaking the ingredients over ice livens up the drink. You can use a jar if you don’t have a shaker. 

  • If using a citrus zest garnish, run it around the edge of the glass to release the oils, which bring the drink to life. 

  • Fresh is best when using fruit and herb garnishes to ensure maximum flavour and aroma 

  • Give your mint a good smack between your hands before adding it to the glass to release more of the minty aroma