Anyone who lives in a state where you get scalded by a hot seat belt buckle knows about this one essential summertime secret: sun tea. When it's too hot to even look at a stovetop, allowing tea to steep using only the heat from the sun produces a subtle-tasting refresher that doesn't involve warming up your kitchen.
The beauty of sun tea is that it is ever changing, depending on how long you let it steep. You can experiment with stronger or more subtle flavors, or mix things up by using different types of tea and aromatics (here, it's flavored with a refreshing lemongrass simple syrup).
For naysayers concerned about bacteria forming in sun tea, this version solves that problem by adding a healthy amount of bacteria-killing gin. It's a win-win.
Spiked Sun Tea
Recipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 2 to 3 hours steeping in the sun
Total Time: 3 hours and 15 minutes
For the Lemongrass Simple Syrup:
3 to 4 stalks lemongrass, cut into 1-inch pieces
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup water
For the Spiked Sun Tea:
4 to 5 bags peppermint tea
1½ cups gin
6 cups water
½ cup lemongrass simple syrup
¼ cup lemon rind peels
1. Make the lemongrass simple syrup: Lightly bruise the lemongrass pieces with a muddler or by making fine cuts with a knife. Add the cut stalks and the sugar to a quart container. In a kettle, heat the water to a boil. Wait about 30 seconds before pouring the hot water over the sugar and lemongrass. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Allow the lemongrass syrup to cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes.
2. Make the spiked sun tea: In a large glass pitcher, add the tea bags, gin, water and lemongrass syrup. Squeeze the oils from the lemon rinds into the mixture before dropping them in, then give the drink a quick stir.
3. Wrap the top of the pitcher with plastic wrap and set the pitcher outside in the sun or on a sunny windowsill, and allow to steep for 2 to 3 hours.
4. When it's done steeping, remove the tea bags and lemon rinds. Serve the tea in rocks glasses with ice.