Sweet Tea Infused Vodka

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firefly_retouched-750mlSweet tea may be synonymous with the South—that staid, mythical place. But believe the latest lore rising from Low Country marshes: sweet-tea-infused vodka.

Firefly Distillery on Wadmalaw Island, off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina, brewed its debut batch of Sweet Tea in April 2008. Five-times distilled from native muscadine grapes and steeped with Charleston Tea Plantation leaves, the 70-proof spirit might mix a less potent cocktail than its competitors. The “Drunken Arnold Palmer,” or equally apt “John Daly” combines Firefly Sweet Tea and lemonade. Or stir in the elements of a mojito for a “mo-tea-to.” Merely on the rocks, however, an amber glassful looks and tastes dangerously, deliciously akin to its nonalcoholic counterpart.

Firefly Sweet Tea assures its toothsome flavor through mostly local produce. But, truth be told, the cane sugar arrives by way of Louisiana, and so staggering became Firefly’s demand that cofounders Scott Newitt and Jim Irvin had to wrangle in some non-Charleston tea and enter a joint venture with a production partner in Frankfort, Kentucky.

“The initial goal was to sell in twelve Southern states. We’re doing five times what we anticipated,” says Newitt. Firefly acclaim has undoubtedly swept clear past the Mason-Dixon line, as liquor proprietors in all 50 states now stock the sweet-tea brew. Surely, four recent twists on the original—Peach Tea, Raspberry Tea, Mint Tea, and Lemon Tea—will assuage palates coast-to-coast, too. With temperatures on the incline, chances abound that Firefly elixirs might supplant the beachside likes of Malibu rum and could even give Long Island Iced Teas a run for their Hamptons money.

—Cameron McVey, Vouge

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