How to Make Hard Iced Tea

Sometimes, when the sun is beating down and you’re wiping sweat from your brow, all you want is a cool beverage. A lemonade, a beer, or an iced tea. But have you ever had hard iced tea? If you have, then you know it’s likely the first thing you crave on a blistering summer day. If you haven’t, prepare to get hooked.

What Is Hard Iced Tea?

Typically, any beverage with the word “hard” in the title is going to have alcohol in it. Just think of hard cider. Hard iced tea has alcohol, and it can come in many forms.

Some hard iced teas will simply add vodka, gin, rum, or even tequila to freshly brewed tea with a little sweetener and then the combination is poured over ice for a nice refreshing summer cocktail to smooth out the rough edges of the heat.

Other hard iced teas will actually be fermented teas that have their own innate alcohol, which you can then pour over ice and serve with lemon.

Either way, you can’t go wrong with a hard iced tea, and depending on how much work you’re willing to do, and how much patience you’ve got, you can choose from either option.

Indeed, you can opt for the quick and easy one today and wait for the longer, slightly more complicated one next weekend!

And, of course, if you’re a brewer looking to extend their portfolio, you’re probably want to take the fermentation route.

History of Hard Iced Tea

Hard iced tea goes back more than a century. In 1800s, Americans began adding liquor to their tea and calling it “tea punch.” Pun intended.

But we can go back even farther if we want to because technically, Kombucha is a hard tea, and it is served cold, often over ice, which would make kombucha a type of hard iced tea.

Kombucha recipes date back hundreds of years in Asia.

Then of course there’s Twisted Tea, the brainchild of Boston Beer Company back in 2001, a spin on malted beverages. Twisted Tea, and other commercially sold “hard” teas like it, are made with 5% malted grain — or beer — along with sweetener, tea, and lemon or other fruit flavoring.

So, you see, hard iced tea has quite a history, and if you want to make it yourself, you have options.

How to Make Hard Iced Tea

Here are a few recipes you can try to get a feel of what to expect from hard iced tea before actually deciding to brew it yourself:

A simple cocktail you can whip up today and head out to the pool deck simply calls for:

  • 2 ½ ounces of your favorite liquor
  • 6 ounces of freshly brewed black tea
  • ½ lemon
  • 1 ounce of simple syrup

Pour the two shots of liquor over ice in a tall glass, add the tea on top, squeeze your lemon and add your simple syrup. Next, mix the ingredients with a drink stirrer and enjoy!

To take a southern approach to hard iced tea, you’ll need the following ingredients:

  • 2 ½ ounces of peach vodka
  • 6 ounces of freshly brewed black tea
  • ½ peach
  • 1 ounce of simple syrup

Combine your ingredients (except for the peach) in a glass over ice and then slice the peach into your glass for decoration and a sweet, and slightly boozy, snack at the end.

To brew your own hard iced tea, however, you’ll need to be more patient.

The best way to go about it is to put your own spin on kombucha.

Brew one pot of black or green tea and add 6 ounces of simple syrup. Also add any fruit flavors you want, like slices of lemon or peaches. You can also consider adding mint or other herbs for flavor. Mix until the ingredients are combined.

Next, place the cooled tea into an airtight container with plenty of room between the top of the liquid and the lid of the container. You’re going to create carbon dioxide, and you don’t want your container to explode.

Store the container in a cool, dry place that gets no sunlight. Check on the container once a day and release any carbon dioxide by opening the container and closing it back up again.

After about 5 days, you’ll have fermented tea that is slightly alcoholic and super tasty.

Strain the ingredients and serve over ice.

You’ve now officially made your own hard iced tea!

Summing It All Up

There are many approaches to creating your own hard iced tea, and while the last one seems easy to read, it is not always easy to get done.

You run the risk when you ferment your own tea of inviting bacteria into your container that is not killed off during fermentation, so you have to dump the whole thing.

(Note that in this case you’ll see visible bacteria in the container, and you’ll have no interest in smelling or drinking the beverage. It’s not something hidden that can harm you if you drink what looks like good tea.)

You’ll also likely want to experiment a lot with various flavors and levels of alcohol. Remember, the more sugar you add, the more alcohol you create.

Finally, you can always decide to pitch commercially sold yeast and take some of the guesswork, in which case you would pitch one packet of yeast for a pot of tea.

Like with most things, experimentation is the name of the game, and it’s what makes the game so great.

Cheers!

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