Boozy bubble tea is a tasty Taiwanese concoction perfect for a mid-afternoon break. The latest twist? Adding booze for an evening treat! Here are our recommendations.
What Is Bubble Tea?
It's a drink that originated in Taiwan in the 1980s. It consists of black tea, milk, ice, and pearls made of dried cassava root, also known as tapioca.
These ingredients are all mixed together in a cocktail shaker and then served in a cup with an extra-wide straw for the pearls to fit through.
Fans love the unique texture of the tapioca balls, which have a bouncy, chewy consistency that pairs perfectly with the cold, creamy tea.
Westerners commonly assume that the drink gets its name from the chewy balls because they resemble bubbles as they cluster at the bottom of the cup, but it's not accurate. Instead, the tea gets its name from the layer of bubbles at the top of the drink that occur when it's shaken in a cocktail shaker before being served.
The Boozy Boba Invasion
Back in the early 90s, Taiwanese immigrants opened the first boba shop in Los Angeles.
Since then it's expanded to Asian American communities in all large coastal cities, but adding booze is a recent innovation: It's only become popular in the last two or three years.
Assad Khan opened the first Bubbleology at 120 1/2 1st avenue in New York City‘s East Village in 2019 serving bubble tea cocktails.
Bubbleology is known for its cocktails with unusual names like City Of Dreams Float, which combines strawberry gelato, rose cider, and lychee pearls that are described as being ‘edible shimmer‘. They're lovely to look at and even better to drink.
Since then, other places have begun putting out their own variations. The pandemic has slowed this trend slightly, but it's expected to pick back up again soon.
These unique, alcohol and tea-infused beverages can be made a billion different ways–sweetened or not, with milk or without, black tea, green tea, or fruit juice base, and tapioca pearls of differing shapes, sizes, and colors.
No matter what kind you prefer, there is an accompanying liquor that will blend perfectly with it and take your afternoon drink up a notch.
Here are some alcoholic bubble tea combos we love!
Boba With Brandy
If you prefer a classic bubble tea–a simple milk tea with those vibrant black pearls hovering at the bottom–try adding a little brandy to it.
The faintly sweet, oaky taste of brandy goes well. It's a great way to finish off a hard day's work!
Spiked Brown Sugar Bobas
This variation has the pearls cooked with brown sugar. They are extremely popular and can be found just about anywhere that sells bubble tea.
They taste great with a coffee liqueur like Kahlua, or an Irish cream such as Bailey's. Both will add an extra punch while complementing the sweet, caramel taste of the drink.
Taro Margarita Milk Tea
Taro is a species of tuber native to Africa and has many health benefits, which makes it a popular addition in Asian tea shops.
The roots are boiled, pureed, and added to drinks to thicken and flavor them. They also impart a vibrant purple hue, making them perfect for the colorful charm of boba.
Mezcals, especially tequilas, go well with taro-based teas. They have a sweet and earthy flavor, and the smoky profile of a good mezcal compliments it beautifully.
Many types of this drink omit milk entirely and instead use a base of fruit-infused tea. Some popular flavors are lychee, grapefruit, strawberry, and mango.
Vodka complements fruity flavors without covering up their delicate taste.
Rum is another good choice for fruit-based drinks. Passionfruit tea made with almond milk is popular with people who need to avoid milk products or the caffeine in traditional tea. Dark rum is a fantastic addition.
Jasmine Honey Boba Tea
Jasmine honey teas are made with a base of jasmine tea sweetened with a generous amount of honey.
Fruity liquors go well with jasmine. Add a bit of orange-flavored alcohol like triple sec, or a lemon-infused vodka.
While not sounding appetizing, cheese teas are a recent phenomenon that has quickly become trendy.
They consist of boosting the foam on top of the tea until it's thick and solid. The extra foam can be made of cream cheese or whipped cream; both have powdered cheese added to them to give the foam its unique salty taste.
Green tea is a popular base for cheese tea. Matcha powder is sprinkled on top of the cheese foam for added flavor and color. The delicate, nutty flavor of green tea compliments the salty foam well.
Try adding gin to a cheese tea to turn it into a cocktail. The green, woody taste of gin sets off the salty umami of a cheese tea.
The Last Word In Boozy Bubble Tea
Boba drinks aren't just for college kids having a special treat during an afternoon break. They can be enjoyed any time of day, by people of any age.
Adding a splash of liquor to them just makes them even better. If you're not able to go to a place like Bubbleology in NYC, it's quite simple to spike your favorite version yourself!
Boozy Bubble Tea FAQ
Is bubble tea unhealthy?
That depends on how much sugar and other additives it contains. Tea-based drinks will contain some of the antioxidant and other healthy compounds found in tea when freshly made. If you're concerned about your health, order a matcha-flavored drink because it contains the most potent tea compounds and keeps the sugar to a minimum.
Are tapioca pearls bad for you?
The pearls found at the bottom of a boba can be a choking hazard to children under 5 years old, but they are safe for everyone else. However, they contain little nutrition and should be enjoyed as an occasional treat.