This Earl Grey cocktail blends the sweet scent of bergamot tea with the spicy aromatics of bourbon. Using a simple syrup made of strong Earl Grey tea and some tea and lemon bitters, it’s a great old fashioned for a late happy hour. While this Earl Grey cocktail doesn’t have the warmth of a fresh-brewed cup of tea, it’s got notes of that bergamot oil and a faint trace of the taste of black tea that pairs elegantly with bourbon.
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What is Earl Grey Tea
Earl Grey tea has a distinctive flavor, and while you may know it comes from bergamot oil, you may not know that its origin is the rind of a bergamot orange, a type usually grown in Italy. The tea is a form of black tea and it’s said that it was originally added to tea shipped in from China that was poorer in quality.
I love the distinctive floral flavor of Earl Grey tea, that aroma takes me back to my morning tea in college (before I drank coffee). It’s a fragrance that’s distinct from other citrus oils, and one that is now synonymous with the tea.
So where did the name come from? It’s named after the Earl of Grey, British Prime Minister from 1830 to 1834, a career politician/aristocrat, but there’s no consensus as to why. Originally it was thought he created or bought the recipe and popularized it. Another theory was that he was given the tea for saving the life of a Chinese diplomat. Again, only rumor.
We’ll never know the origins of the story, but it’s likely it became popular in London through the entertaining savvy of his wife, Lady Grey.
How to Make Earl Grey Simple Syrup
For this cocktail, we want to make simple syrup full of the fragrance of the tea, and to do that, we’ll brew a cup of really strong Earl Grey tea. Generally, you’d use 1 tea black per cup of water, but in this case, use two to three tea bags in the cup of water. Once the tea is brewed, we’ll use it to make a cup of simple syrup.
Just add 8 oz/1 cup of sugar to 1 cup of the strongly-brewed tea while it’s warm, shake it up until the sugar is dissolved and store in a clean glass jar in the fridge. It’ll be ready to go when it’s time to make your cocktail.
Making the Old Fashioned
Once you have your simple syrup, it’s time to pick out a whiskey. Because of the floral notes in this earl grey old fashioned, I would go with a whiskey that’s not over 100 proof. It’s also best with a whiskey that already has oak notes in it since the simple syrup will have some of the drying flavor of black tea. I preferred this cocktail with bourbon over rye, as the rye I was using had some grassy notes to it that didn’t play well with the Earl Grey syrup.
However, it might work if you were using a 51% rye mash bill rye whiskey where the flavor was closer to a bourbon.
This is going to be a simple cocktail to construct in a mixing glass. I do add Earl Grey bitters (from 1821 Bitters) and Meyer Lemon bitters to the cocktail. If you can find the lemon bitters they add a great bright citrus component that evokes the scent of a lemon peel floating in a warm cup of tea. Add ice, stir, strain into a chilled glass and enjoy.
Other Old Fashioned Cocktails to Try
- Oleo Fashioned (made with oleo saccharum, an easy orange simple syrup)
- Who’s Your Daddy – A tiki coffee old fashioned
- Maple Old Fashioned
- Peanut Butter Old Fashioned
- Breakfast Old Fashioned
- Lavender Lemon Old Fashioned
- Blackberry Old Fashioned
- Perfect Old Fashioned
Recommended Bar Tools
You don’t need every slick, beautiful bar tool out there, but there are several I’ll recommend. (As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. However, that does not affect the cost of the items below.) My favorite pieces usually come from the Cocktail Kingdom section of Amazon:
You may already have these bar essentials, but just in case:
Earl Grey Bourbon Cocktail
- 2 oz bourbon
- ½ oz Earl Grey simple syrup
- 2 dashes Earl Grey bitters 1821 bitters
- 1 dash Meyer lemon bitters optional
- Garnish: orange or lemon peel
- Combine bourbon, syrup and bitters in a mixing glass. Add ice and stir for 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish.
- 1 cup boiling water
- 2-3 Earl Grey tea bags
- 1 cup sugar
8 thoughts on “Earl Grey Old Fashioned Cocktail”
I never would have thought to combine two things I love: Bourbon and Earl Grey Tea! Thank you so much for sharing. Delicious!!
Irish cream in hot tea is marvelous as well.
And don’t forget the Japanese highball known as the oolong-hai, which is 3 parts oolong tea and 2 parts of your favorite Shōchū, or any good Japanese malt whisky (Hibiki 17 makes a kickass one).
Oh, very good point and I’ve been needing a reason to purchase the Hibiki 17!
As an earl gray lover, I thank you for this amazing cocktail recipe!
Terrific combination cocktail that is unique, yet delicious
What a genius blend of flavors! I am obsessing over how else to use this flavor duo.
Simple to make, didn’t have EG bitters but made the tea for the simple stronger, and used Fee Brothers orange bitters, and some Jim Beam Black that I had knocking around. I’ve got a whole bottle of EG simple now, and I plan to try this with a variety of whiskey, I currently have some Woodford, as well as some High West Rendezvous Rye, Double Rye, and Campfire (looking forward to that one with EG, promises to be amazing), some Boot Hill wheat whiskey.
Another OF trick I learned at Disney’s yacht club: use maple syrup (the real stuff, not that fake flavored corn syrup) in place of regular simple for a whole new dimension. Bonus if you do it with a Canadian whisky.
100% agree on adding maple to anything with whiskey. It’s a magical combination. I love EG simple in the fall and winter. Great base for a hot toddy!