Vodka Tea Time

Fill a highball glass with cracked ice, squeeze in a bit of lemon, and add sweet-tea vodka

Vodka Tea Time
Photo by Wes Marshall

Back in the good old days of 2008, South Carolinians Scott Newitt and Jim Irvin were interested in expanding Firefly, their vodka brand. After having some success with muscadine vodka (urp!), they decided all of us iced-tea-sipping Southerners would like tea-infused vodka. The idea went viral. Within two years, their product was in most states and copycats were already nipping at their heels.

Entrepreneurs are always looking for a way to build a better mousetrap, and two local men decided to toss their hats into the sweet-tea vodka marketplace. Both added their own touches and have created strong products.

Savvy Vodka owner Chad Auler enlisted Clayton Chris­to­pher. Now, if anyone locally knows something about how to make and market a popular tea, Christopher is the man. He's the founder and former CEO of Sweet Leaf Tea. Their product, Deep Eddy Sweet Tea Vodka ($19) is obviously named after the revered local swimming hole. They start with Savvy's delicious vodka, which uses Hill Country water directly from his family's Fall Creek property, then add hand-selected Indonesian black tea leaves; 100% pure cane sugar from Sugarland, Texas; and clover honey from Good Flow Honey Co.

Daniel Barnes told me a similar story about his Graham's Texas Tea ($16). After trying dozens of teas from all over the world, his team decided the best choice is hand-selected Nilgiri black tea. Then they add turbinado sugar and Hill Country spring water.

Both sweet teas are 35% alcohol (i.e., 70 proof), just like Firefly's Sweet Tea Vodka. That amount of alcohol is effectively hidden by the big sweetness of both products, something which makes it very popular with folks who like a smooth, quaffable drink. Both will be very popular on Sixth Street. They both really taste like tea. The Graham's Texas Tea is a touch sweeter, and the tea flavors are more mellow. Deep Eddy's tea flavors and tannins are more intense, and the sweetness is less dominant.

Fill a highball glass with cracked ice, squeeze in a bit of lemon, and add either sweet-tea vodka for a nice sunset cocktail. Both products are available at better liquor stores in the Central Texas area.

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