Warmed up to tea

by Warren Bobrow

“Splice the main brace” * Cocktail recipe and photo by Warren Bobrow

Tea, I love you.  In the morning- corrected of course or in the evening- the same holds true.  Your depth and passion extend through each and every sip.  From the truly gourmet slurps that cost more per pound than a small car, to the more mundane varieties meted out in a ceremonial wooden box at the end of a meal, I love tea. 

Tea is a hidden cocktail ingredient.  It adds depth, character and clarity to your cocktails.  I like using a black tea in my hot rum cocktails. There is something unique about the deeper flavors that tea adds to a drink. 

Rum-based cocktails take on more complex profiles when tea is introduced to the mix. 

I suppose this harkens back to the days on sailing vessels.  The historic connotation of the hot toddy was meant to stave off the bone-wrenching cold and ever-present humidity aboard sailing ships.  Anything below deck on a vessel was a horrid place indeed.  The cold from the surrounding waters seeped right through your bones.  There was no escaping it.  Add to this equation, the lack of ventilation when the hatches were closed and the ever-present chill throbbing through your body made for a good hot cup of tea.

 “Warms you from the inside out” is less of a trend and more of a necessity. 

I learned to introduce hot tea into cocktails that included rum many decades ago.  My family owned a Little Harbor yacht and although she was removed from the equation of the icy northern waters, Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island- the tropical waters off the British Virgin Islands can get pretty brisk below deck. 

And so came cocktail inspiration.

A good hot cup of tea goes a long way towards warming your old bones. 

I like to “correct” my tea with a good splash of British Navy Rum.  There is much to be said for the British.  Until the 1980’s they offered a “tot” (about a pint) of rum to sailors on British Navy ships.  Modern cocktails evolved from this very basic cocktail of lime and rum.  Why else were they called “limey’s?”

Of course with that rum tot comes the obligatory cup of tea- and the inspiration for my cocktail is born.  Hot tea, Navy Rum and lime juice go into this body warming cocktail.  In a tip of my hat to the builders of my family’s former yacht, a curious ginger liqueur is added.  My step-dad used to store long slices of ginger into a container of simple syrup in the galley.  A bit of fresh ginger syrup would heal a belly-ache from overindulgence or cure seasickness.  I love a good hit of the ginger syrup in a short rocks glass of rum, with a squeeze of lime or in a cup of tea.  Whatever the reason, ginger is as much a part of history as the tot of rum mixed with a cup of hot tea.  It also makes your cocktail even more potent.

The Apparent Wind cocktail is so described by the direction and speed of the wind felt by the crew.

When you are surrounded by only by the relentless ocean and an icy gale blows up, it’s nice to have a warming cup of tea whenever the Apparent Wind is felt.

Apparent Wind Cocktail: serves two very cold sailors or four landlubbers


  • 6 Shots of Dark British Navy Rum like Pussers 95.5 Proof.
  • Ginger Root: sliced and submerged in simple syrup for at least a few days
  • Hot tea (Black Tea is perfect)
  • Fresh Lime Juice (about ¼ cup)
  • Slice of orange (for sweetness)


  • Heat a kettle and pour boiling water over the black tea.  You can use tea bags if you desire, steep until quite black in color
  • Pre-heat several mugs with boiling water, then pour out
  • Add at least two shots (or more if the temperature is colder) per mug of good strong Navy Rum
  • Top with the hot, black tea
  • Add a few splashes of lime juice each mug
  • Adjust sweetness with ginger syrup
  • Garnish with hunks of orange (to ward off Scurvy)

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