my #1 most favorite holiday recipe: Russian Tea

day 212: over the shoulder
Image: day 212: over the shoulder, via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

When we lived in Charleston, I hosted the annual Thanksgiving potluck for all the pediatrics residency folks, most of whom didn’t get the holiday off and couldn’t go home and celebrate with their families.  We’d cram people into our little house, folks perched wherever they could, my dogs hoping someone would drop some turkey.  The first year, I made my Memaw’s Russian Tea, and by the end of the party, people were DEMANDING the recipe.  Every year after that, when I’d send out invites to the Thanksgiving Potluck, people would ask, “Will there be Russian Tea?”  Of course! It’s not Thanksgiving without it!

It should be said that there is absolutely nothing Russian about Russian Tea, or my family, which, as best as I can tell, is mostly British and Irish.  Russian Tea is really a citrusy spiced tea, best when spiked with booze like bourbon or dark rum.  I like to make a giant batch in my stock pot, keep it in the crock pot during the party (Memaw keeps hers in an old percolator thing that keeps it SCALDING hot), and then put leftovers in pitchers in the fridge for heating up a cup at a time later.  So, here’s the recipe for my favorite holiday tradition:

Russian Tea

  • 4 cups water, plus 8 additional cups
  • 4 tea bags (plain tea, like Lipton)
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 2.5 cups pineapple juice
  • 1.5 cups frozen orange juice concentrate
  • 6 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • Dark rum or bourbon

Boil 4 cups water and steep 4 regular-sized tea bags.  Add to that mixture in a large stock pot 1½ cups sugar, 2½ cups pineapple juice, 1½ cups orange juice (frozen concentrate, not diluted), 6 Tsp. fresh lemon juice, 8 whole cloves, 2 cinnamon sticks, and 8 cups water.  Bring to a boil, serve warm, add dark rum or bourbon as desired. I recommend adding the booze to each cup individually, so the buzz-inducing properties don’t get cooked out.

Easy double batch:
Boil 8 cups water with 8 tea bags, add 1 large can pineapple juice, 1 family size frozen OJ, 12 Tsp. lemon juice, 2 cups sugar, 16 whole cloves, 4 cinnamon sticks, and 16 cups water.

2 Replies to “my #1 most favorite holiday recipe: Russian Tea”

  1. Ooh, you make it the fancy way! In my house, we just combine sugar, instant lemon Nestea, and Tang into a powder that can be stored for months: Just add hot water and voilà! Probably not quite as tasty as your version, but it works in a pinch! :)


  2. Thanks for posting the recipe! I’ve always loved this drink.. without the alcohol though..
    Will be making this for an Open House tomorrow!!
    I hope your Holidays are bright!!


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