Dirty Chai Toddy

December 21, 2010
4 Ratings
Photo by Nicole Franzen
  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 15 minutes
  • Serves 2
Author Notes

My youngest brother is home from college for the holidays. He mentioned to me that during finals week, all he drank was dirty chai – chai with a shot of espresso. I love chai and I love espresso, so I was pretty sure I would like a dirty chai. Add a shot of bourbon, and you have a hot toddy that will erase the troubles of the day, even if it does not put you to sleep. My chai recipe is inspired by one I found at http://www.veetea.com/site/articles/Masala-Chai-Recipes/, with ingredients I had on hand. Note: While green cardamom pods are typically used, I only had black cardamom pods which have a smokier, more pungent quality. I was curious how it would affect the flavor, and I enjoyed the overall balance with the espresso and bourbon. - gingerroot —gingerroot

Test Kitchen Notes

This starts out as a fragrant and mildly indulgent chai -- it's made with half-n-half -- and then right before serving you sling in some espresso and bourbon, and suddenly it's a drink with purpose and conviction. —The Editors

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Dirty Chai Toddy
  • For the Chai:
  • 8 ounces half and half
  • 4 ounces water
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 2 black cardamom pods, crushed with a mortar and pestle
  • 5 pink peppercorns, crushed with a mortar and pestle (up to 6)
  • 1 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and flattened with the flat side of a large knife
  • 2 tablespoons Turbinado sugar
  • 2 sachets of organic whole leaf black tea, preferably Assam
  • For the Dirty Toddy:
  • 2 ounces espresso (I used Stumptown Roasters Hairbender), for the dirty toddy
  • 2 ounces Knob Creek, or other good quality bourbon, for the dirty toddy
  1. Combine half and half, water, spices and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Add black tea sachets and steep for 5 minutes. Remove tea sachets, strain out spices and split chai between two pre-warmed teacups. Add one ounce of espresso and one ounce of bourbon to each teacup. Sit back and enjoy.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Rebecca @ Bring Back Delicious
    Rebecca @ Bring Back Delicious
  • juliunruly
  • TheWimpyVegetarian
  • dethbird
  • drbabs

Recipe by: gingerroot

My most vivid childhood memories have to do with family and food. As a kid, I had the good fortune of having a mom who always encouraged trying new things, and two grandmothers who invited me into their kitchens at a young age. I enjoy cooking for the joy it brings me - sharing food with loved ones - and as a stress release. I turn to it equally during good times and bad. Now that I have two young children, I try to be conscientious about what we cook and eat. Right about the time I joined food52, I planted my first raised bed garden and joined a CSA; between the two I try to cook as sustainably and organically as I can. Although I'm usually cooking alone, my children are my favorite kitchen companions and I love cooking with them. I hope when they are grown they will look back fondly at our time spent in the kitchen, as they teach their loved ones about food-love. Best of all, after years on the mainland for college and graduate school, I get to eat and cook and raise my children in my hometown of Honolulu, HI. When I'm not cooking, I am helping others grow their own organic food or teaching schoolchildren about art.

72 Reviews

LULULAND October 6, 2018
How much is a sachet of tea? thanks
Rebecca @. January 12, 2015
This looks like a good slightly sweet alternative to many whipped-cream topped spiked drinks out there that I'm sure curdled right after they snapped the picture...Thanks for sharing!
Lauri September 8, 2014
Just came across this and tried it. While I have to say it was good, it was more work than this k-cuper wants to spend. May I offer my lazy version? Brew an 8oz kcup of Cafe Escape's Chai Latte into the mug you're going to drink from, brew 4oz any brand of espresso kcup into a separate cup. Pour only 2oz of the espresso into the main mug, followed by the amount of half and half you prefer (I use about 2oz) and the amount bourbon you want. As an added treat, top with whipped cream.
gingerroot October 28, 2014
That's a great shortcut!
juliunruly January 12, 2014
I found this much too sweet with the 2 tbsp of sugar, and also didn't like the taste of the bourbon with it. However, I love this recipe for plain chai without the coffee or booze (and with half the sugar). Super simple and delicious. Thank you!
gingerroot February 3, 2014
Thanks for letting me know! Glad you enjoy the chai recipe.
Amber November 1, 2013
Fantastic! Not too sweet and the perfect blend of spice and creaminess with the added bonus of a coffee layer. Do you know if this can be increased without compromising the integrity of the recipe?
gingerroot November 6, 2013
Hi Amber! Check out JenLeePA's question thread. Thanks for your comment, I'm thrilled you enjoyed it.
MomofChef October 20, 2013
So while wandering though the tea plantations of Sri Lanka, my husband and our young friend would identify mysterious plants and call them "coftea" thinking that coffee and tea together would be pretty funny. Now I will have to make this for them and see how chai and coffee go together. Little did they knowabout dirty chai. I have been making my own chai spices based on my Tibetan nieces recipe for more than a decade. This will be an interesting modification on our standard winter time drink.
gingerroot November 6, 2013
Hi MomofChef! Somehow your comment snuck right by me. I hope you enjoy this and would love to hear your thoughts about it.
Ruthlessmess July 6, 2013
My husband and I are big chai latte fans and loved this. Instead of assam black tea we used a 'spicy chai masala' blend we had bought in a fancy tea shop. Wonderfully fragrant and fulfilling recipe, thankyou. And all the comments helped, otherwise I probably wouldn't have gotten over my negative ideas about mixing tea& coffee
gingerroot July 7, 2013
Thanks so much for letting me know! I'm thrilled you and your husband enjoyed this.
katybeth May 12, 2013
how do you get the half and half not to curdle? I made this and could barely strain all the spices out because it got so thick. hmmmmm.......
gingerroot May 13, 2013
Hi katybeth, Sorry to hear that happened. Although it has never happened when I've made it (I keep the heat at the barest simmer and whisk for a minute or two) someone on the question thread attached to this recipe thought it might be the fresh ginger. She suggested getting everything else simmering first, before adding the ginger. I'd love to know if that solves the curdling issue for you.
Katya April 12, 2013
Where did you get the mug? I love it and can't stop thinking about it.
fayeballs April 17, 2013
me too!!!!
gingerroot April 17, 2013
I'd love to know too. It's gorgeous.
juleeclip November 7, 2013
Looks similar to the faceted boulder mugs from leif shop, and if memory serves me I believe they used to make a low, cappuccino variation... http://www.leifshop.com/products/faceted-boulder-mug
juliunruly January 6, 2014
Katya there's a somewhat similar mug for sale here on Food52 http://food52.com/provisions/products/313-wheel-thrown-stoneware-mug
beejay45 March 28, 2013
Just came across this, and it sounds amazing. I'm going to try subbing my herbal coffee for the espresso. Sad, I know, but I'm allergic to coffee. Our days are warming up, but the nights up here in the Valley are still chilly enough to justify this lovely tipple.
gingerroot April 17, 2013
Thank you beejay45! Apologies for the belated response, I just found your comment. This will definitely keep you warm on a chilly night.
RandyPickles January 7, 2013
This reminds me of a spicy, earthy twist on Singaporean coffee!
gingerroot April 17, 2013
Thank you!
Jenniferino December 26, 2011
so good! i used only 1 tbsp turbinado sugar and it was perfect :)
gingerroot December 26, 2011
So glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for letting me know.
TheWimpyVegetarian December 26, 2011
Oh wow! I totally missed this! Huge congratulations on your wildcard win - well deserved!!!! I was looking at hot toddy recipes and am totally on this one. Happy Holidays gingerroot!!!
gingerroot December 26, 2011
Thank you, ChezSuzanne! I hope you enjoy this if you give it a whirl. Happy Holidays to you and yours as well!!
dethbird December 7, 2011
I drank just the bourbon part. Does that count? :) just kidding
This sounds fantastic
gingerroot December 9, 2011
Thank you, dethbird! Personally, I love the bourbon part.
drbabs October 31, 2011
I'm sorry it took me so long to write you--congratulations on the wildcard win! I had never heard of dirty chai before, but I'm dying to try this!
gingerroot November 1, 2011
Hi drbabs, No apologies - thank you so much! I'd love to hear your thoughts if you try it!
EmilyC October 24, 2011
Congrats, gingerroot, on your wildcard win! This looks like the perfect cold weather pick-me-up!
gingerroot October 25, 2011
Thanks so much, EmilyC!
hardlikearmour October 24, 2011
This is really good! Not to sweet, not too strong, just perfect! Cheers!
gingerroot October 25, 2011
I'm thrilled that you tried this, and it means a lot to me that you enjoyed it!
Lisa H. October 24, 2011
Hi, What is half & half ? I'm guessing milk of some kind? I haven't seen it in Australia.
hardlikearmour October 24, 2011
Half milk & half cream.
susan G. October 23, 2011
I made this at 3 AM last night, and drank just the chai. In the morning I added the expresso. So good either way. Eventually, the bourbon. Wonderful how the Wildcard makes treasures like this pop up.
gingerroot October 25, 2011
Thank you, susan g! So glad you enjoyed the Dirty Chai and hope you like the toddy version too.
Kitchen B. October 23, 2011
Congrats ginger root. It looks wonderful and is beautifully captured

Nicole Franzen/Photo composer/A&M - that photo is worthy of high praise. Simply, stunning. I love the hint of grey wool in the background, the hands wrapped around the cup to receive warmth and the gorgeousness of the cup itself.

gingerroot October 25, 2011
Thank you, KB. I could not agree more about the photo - it is gorgeous!