No-ABV (alcohol by volume) cocktails – or “mocktails,” as we often call them – are basically cocktails minus the booze. The challenge of making a memorable one is finding ingredients that can substitute for the complexity of flavor that alcohol provides.
While coffee has recently gained popularity as a mocktail element (see the ubiquitous Coffee and Tonic), tea is also an excellent way to create aromatic, caffeine-boosted libations! Earl Grey shares similar flavors with tonic water to make for a nice citrusy pairing, so it’s a useful addition to your home bar when you’re not drinking alcohol.
Why Tea Is Great for Mocktails
When one is abstaining from alcohol-based bitters and liqueurs, tea can add that necessary touch of bitterness and astringency to a non-alcoholic drink. It is also another way to add layers of flavor: steeping tea bags directly in syrup eliminates the need to add more liquid into your mocktail, which can dilute your drink further.
The Trick to a Good Mocktail
Something else to keep in mind when making a mocktail is viscosity. Alcohol has a certain weight in a drink and on your tongue. When you drink, say, a fruit juice, you know you are drinking a juice. But if you made a juice/spirit mix, while the flavor would obviously tell you it’s alcoholic, there is also a tangible difference in the way it feels in your mouth.
To replicate that experience to some degree in this mocktail, I created a rich tea syrup for a heavier mouthfeel. Giving body to the drink elevates it and makes it feel more like a cocktail and not just a simple sweetened beverage.
Do Not Under-Steep Your Tea Syrup!
We are all used to the recommended brew times for tea, usually clocking in at four to five minutes. However, here you’re looking for concentrated flavors. A short steep time will result in a weaker flavored syrup.
Don’t worry – the longer steep time won’t make the drink too bitter. If you have loose tea, use two to three tablespoons of tea, depending on how strongly flavored your tea is. If you’ve picked up a new-to-you tea, start with two bags, and if you’d like more flavor, steep a third bag.
The Best Tonic Water to Use for a Tea and Tonic
There are so many tonic waters on the market right now that choosing one might seem difficult. Any basic tonic would work and still strike the right sweet and bitter notes due to the quinine.
For this drink in particular, though, I find that Fever-Tree’s Indian Tonic, with its bitter orange flavor, really complements the bergamot. Avoid the more powerfully flavored tonic waters, which can compete with the assertive citrus and floral notes of bergamot.
If Earl Grey is not a flavor you enjoy (or like my husband, it brings on a migraine), many other floral or herbal teas could work. Hibiscus, lemon verbena, or a rooibos tea would bring a complementary flavor and work with the tonic. You could also switch out the lemon here for lime or grapefruit.
Storing Your Earl Grey Syrup
Keep this syrup in an airtight container in the fridge and it will last you at least a month.
More Mocktails to Enjoy
- Pear-Ginger Shrub
- Winter Spiced Orange Mocktail
- How To Make Ginger Switchel
- Virgin Pomegranate-Citrus Sangria
Earl Grey Tea and Tonic
If you prefer a mild-flavored mocktail that is less sweet, use only 2 tea bags in the syrup with 4 ounces of tonic water in the mocktail. The more tonic water, the less pronounced the bergamot flavor will be.
For a more robust mocktail with stronger bitter notes from the tea and the tonic, use 3 tea bags and 3 ounces of tonic water. If this is too sweet, add in an additional 1/2 ounce of tonic water.
- For the Earl Grey (Bergamot) Tea Syrup
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 - 3 Earl Grey tea bags
- For the mocktail
- 3/4 ounce Earl Grey (Bergamot) Tea Syrup
- 1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 3-4 ounces tonic water (I prefer Fever-Tree’s Indian Tonic)
- 8 ounces crushed ice
Make the Earl Grey Tea Syrup:
Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat and add tea bags. Cover and let steep for 15 minutes.
Remove the tea bags and let the syrup cool for 30 minutes, then transfer to an airtight container. Refrigerate for up to one month.
Make the mocktail:
Fill a highball glass with crushed ice. Pour in 3/4 ounce Earl Grey Tea Syrup, 1/2 ounce lemon juice, and 3-4 ounces tonic water. Gently stir to combine and serve.