Tatratea Liqueur: Shift Your Paradigms and Buy It!

Tatratea Liqueur: Shift Your Paradigms and Buy It!

Bottom Line: after trying the full lineup of 5 high proof tea liqueurs from Slovakia, we were completely converted. It was one of the most enjoyable tastings on record for us. The technical execution is impeccable, the flavors are balanced, and the exotic taste is something completely different from almost anything else we’ve tried. Rather than demanding a slew of elaborate ingredients for designer cocktails to use, we found Tatratea moved seamlessly into hot water, ice, black tea, and even neat presentations; all very, very easy for the home bar. Rather than be daunted at seeing 5 or 6 different flavors and proofs on the shelf, pick one at random and go home happy.

Now the details.

Tatrata is a liqueur that uses a base distillate of molasses and infuses the mash with tea, spices and fruits. This is quite a departure from the familiar world of flavored vodkas, gins, and most liqueurs who use a neutral grain spirit. The spices and teas steep by themselves for 6 weeks before being blended with the molasses distillate and then “steeped” for another six weeks before blending down with mountain spring water and bottling. The bottles themselves are a soft, pearl-like “thermos” bottle that “evoke images of highlanders traveling in the tough Tatra Mountains of Slovakia.” Tatratea is on record wanting to use tea as a flavor that taps into the growing health conscious and natural flavor trends that are sweeping the globe. Most interesting of all, where many liqueurs on the market come highly sweetened at relatively low proofs, Tatratea starts at 64 proof and moves up from there coming in at a high 144 proof at the high end. This puts in a realm of spirits a far cry away from the 40 proof cream liqueurs, the 70 proof flavored vodkas, and even some of the 80 proof classic liqueurs. For all these reasons, Tatratea is really in a class of spirits populated only by itself

These spirits really have no good comparison on the market. Tea liqueurs exist (at the time of this writing we have 18 tea liqueurs in our database and 5 of them are Tatratea). Many of them are green tea liqueurs (see, for example, Suntory’s Zen Tea liqueur, now apparently discontinued) while others are more exotic (see, for example, Art in the Age Rhubarb Tea liqueur, happily still available). But in all cases, they’re more or less in an exotic and unusual category. Tatratea is an interesting brand in that they specialize specifically in tea liqueurs and they vary greatly in both flavor and alcohol strength. How, then, do we approach a useful tasting for you, the would-be consumer, who is confronted with a shelf of liqueurs in which stately Tatratea Bottles in all their variations?

We completed a vertical tasting, going from low proof to high proof, with a corresponding well-known liqueur in that same genre of flavor. In this way, we want to try and see what would reasonably compel a person to branch out and attempt this Slovakian tribute to tea.

Tatratea 32

Citrus tea liqueur with herbal and black tea flavors.

Cruzan Citrus Rum

Why not a sweet citrus rum? It’s a blend of lemon, orange, and grapefruit.

Overall, Cruzan rum is a hard lemon flavor… sherbet/asphalt. It present clear. On the other hand, the Tatratea presents a deep, rich, syrupy brown. It smells of a combination of honey, eucalyptus, and menthol. The bottle promises “a realm of anticipated bliss.” We were actually a little trepidatious. But on drinking, we were surprised that we actually were transported to realm of surprising bliss. The taste is sweet, touched with a bitter tea finish. It’s on the edge of being overly sweet but still delicately flavored. The finish is a perfect bookend that you’re done with the drink: short and sharp. A little ice calms the sweet and pulls out the tea making it a lovely drink. Easily overmatches any sweet tea flavored vodka that’s been on the market.

In hot tea the Cruzan Citrus gives the expected lemon cast and it’s pretty good. Surprisingly good really… would be an excellent morning drink for people who go that way. In contrast, the Tatratea blends seamlessly with the tea giving it a kind of Victorian-era apothecary feel. Imbibing has a distinctly rejuvenating curative/soothing quality. Drinking it makes you feel like one should be reading leather-bound books.

In tonic, the Cruzan is an odd sort of drink where the sweet rum doesn’t go well. But tonic is recommended on the bottle, website, and marketing literature of Tatratea… in practice, though, the 32 doesn’t mix well. The front palate with lemon and citrus is nice but the bitter tea finish clashes miserably with the bitter quinine and… well, it shouldn’t taste dry and crispy like electricity off an extension cord.


Tatratea 42

Peach tea liqueur with black and white tea.

Peachtree Schnapps

The classic, very sweet, very potent peach liqueur.

Overall, Peachtree is pretty much what it says: “bartender quality” peach flavored sweet schnapps. Nothing wrong with it, really, for what it is. The Tatratea smells of peach but peach plus a little something more. A little élan, a little foot-kick from the dark-haired ingénue as she stares down the leading man. At 84 proof we’re just a touch higher than the “bar quality” whiskey but its warming rather than burning. The taste is sweet peach with a complex, very dry, and very bitter finish. Ice does not help it… rather it opens up the bitter and diminishes the sweet. Hard to imagine drinking this for an extended period of time… say, longer than 3 sips. Cannot give a general recommendation neat and certainly not recommended on ice. It’s not a replacement for whiskey; it’s not a replacement for peach schnapps… where do you drink it?

In hot tea? Well, in hot tea peach schnapps is pretty fun. Schnapps in coffee in general is fun. Especially if you’re in the arctic cold, which is how we were performing our tasting. The Tatratea 42 was a divided opinion and it was yawning abyss of a divide. 50% of our group absolutely adored the peach tea liqueur in the black tea. They wrapped their cold, trembling hands around the mug and refused to let go. On the other side, the bitterness of the black tea—and can you blame a black tea for being bitter?—simply weren’t having it, surrendering their mugs easily and quickly.

In the Skinny T (Tatratea recipe), which called for agave syrup, lime, and spirit topped with club soda the schnapps was an inoffensive, oddly light, swimming pool kind of cocktail. The Tatratea reawakened the vicious divide that plagued us above with the hot tea. Those who loved it claimed it had a distinct, personal, zesty character with a lovely bitter finish. On the other side, those who couldn’t handle the bitter before really hated it now. It’s as divided an outcome as Proof66 has had in a long time. Clearly, there is an element of die-hard fandom out there for this spirit that is Obama-like in its intensity for the love and its hate.


Tatratea 52

Original tea liqueur with raspberry.

Absolut Wild Tea

One of our all-time vey favorite flavored vodkas with tea and elderflower.  

Overall, the Original promises to be their most popular and best-selling… so we paired it up with on of our all-time favorite flavored vodkas: the Absolut Wild Tea Elderflower and Black Tea. We love the floral and the tea and the complete lack of sweetness. But, impossibly, the Tatratea 52 was better. At 104 proof it is absolutely ridiculous how smooth and flavorful it tastes. The fruit comes through the tea and the honey in a delicate symphony of hummingbird wings and piccolos. It’s absolutely fantastic on just one or two ice cubes. It is an absolute liquid roofie for any person of any sexual persuasion. Fantastic. Slovakians must be reproducing like rabbits if this is their bestseller.

We thought it would be even better in hot tea. Where the Absolut Wild Tea vanished entirely in the tea—which makes it a great candidate for alcoholics who mix vodka with their tea—the Tatratea 52 makes the alcoholic cultured. It’s something that the fully tenured professor at any Ivy League school would put in his tea for brisk walks between the hallowed brick walls. It’s fantastic. It demands snowy slopes, crisp evenings… everywhere that a warm drink is wanted. Really good stuff.

Tonic water is the preferred mixer for Absolut Wild Tea and it tastes very nice for those who like a little class with their tonic. The Tatratea? Well, despite the marketing literature, we’re absolutely done putting tonic water in anything that comes from Slovakia. Terrible. The aftertaste is like being in pain it makes you wince so hard. Don’t let this be the last thought about the spirit though: in all other cases—and especially bit itself with a little ice—it’s brilliant. It’s a match for anything that comes with the name Bourbon or Scotch on the label.


Tatratea 62

Bohemian tea liqueur with black tea and berries.


This is the king (queen?) of all blackberry liqueurs.

Overall, Chambord is really a signature liqueur: all berry with notes of chocolate and vanilla. Anyone who wears a little black cocktail dress could drink it with complete dignity with royalty. The Tatratea 62 is promising a relaxing nap under the canopy of a forest for its setting. Tatratea 62 is also now approaching cask strength whiskeys in its intensity which makes us think of wild boar chasing us through the woods rather than a nap. Straight—which we don’t recommend—is still proving that Tatratea handles its ABV very, very well. A credit to the craft that berry can still come through all that heat. On ice, the spirit calms down very nicely to berry and tea. It’s exactly a subtle yet complex blackberry tea… subtle and complex the way Jean Luc Picard seduces. Lovely. second best to the original and recommended for those who like blackberry.

Chambord and Tatratea 62 are both recommended for Kir Royale cocktails, where the berry is used to top dry champagne. So, acquiring a bottle of champagne for the occasion, we tried both. The Chambord was predictably good. But the Tatratea? Wow. This is what should be served at every wedding reception everywhere. Every bridesmaid would get lucky and the in-laws would be fighting. If there’s no such thing as a drink called the Lonely Bridesmaid, then it should be coined now and be champagne topped with Tatratea 62. Hard to imagine the drink in a library or other whiskey/brandy setting but at a party? Punch bowls? Music and dancing? It is the viviality in conviviality.

It demands to be tried in hot tea, as all these liqueurs do. The Chambord is weakened here… the berry present and pleasant but not exactly augmenting. It’s delicate; ephemeral; and probably one of the better tea drinks not mixed with Tatratea. But then the Tatratea. It mixes with the tea like Led Zeppelin lyrics mix with guitar riffs in Stairway to Heaven. The aroma is one of the loveliest around… pure potpourri if potpourri actually smelled nice. The berry, the sweet, and then the bitter tea finish. Sweeten to taste. It can’t come across in print how surprising it is that a tea liqueur mixes so well with tea but we have to insist on it: tea simply should not be drunk without at least a slug of Tatratea mixed inside of it. It’s the missing link of all tea everywhere.


Tatratea 72

Outlaw tea liqueur with the very essence of black tea.


Straight to a classic bitters liqueur, though not nearly the strength.

Tatratea 72 is a 144 proof spirit. That’s hot. It’s hotter than absinthe; hotter than cask strength whiskey; it’s a shade lighter than the notorious 151. For the record, it is far, far tastier than 151 anything. For something delivers such a wallop, it is shockingly smooth and flavorful. For all that, it’s still hot. Your gullet is still burning for full minutes after drinking. The marketing literature says it has a “bite of the renegade” and invites you to contemplate the “joy of discretion” (?) when drinking it. Whatever that means, we say if you want to shoot a spirit, flex your muscles, and pick fights. This is it. For anyone that wants a manly shooter, this is it. Jagermeister, which is what we compared it to, doesn’t hold a candle to Outlaw tea liqueur. It scoffs at Russians shooting vodka and chasing with fish eggs. It thinks people who shoot tequila and chase it with salt and lime belong in daycare. It is Godzilla in a world of little salamanders you get at the local pet store. The scale of taste, quality, and sheer brute force of this spirit versus these competitors is astonishing and analogues fail. It has the brawn of Chuck Norris, the seduction of the Dos Equis man, and the potency of Angelina Golie. We don’t recommend shooting spirits but if getting drunk is your aim, this is it. We, ourselves, are going to lock this liqueur up with the guns in the safe.


What have we learned?

First, Slovakia knows what the hell its doing when it comes to tea liqueur. Second, for Tatratea itself there’s a very signature menthol aroma with an astringent tea finish that permeates each of the different spirit types; this is the Tatratea essence. Third, a vertical tasting with liqueurs ranging from a low of 64 proof to a high of 144 proof is a very fun and exciting evening. Fourth and last, we have an entirely new respect for what tea liqueurs can do in cocktails.

After running through the whole lineup, it’s obvious Proof66 ended up as enthusiastic converts. Even so, the quality is still so much in a class on its own it’s hard to know if this will pick up in North America. By all rights, it should. Now, after this experience, if we enter a bar and see the lineup of Tatratea bottles along a shelf a great sloppy grin will spread over our faces and the reputation index of said bar will take on giant leap forward. Yet to lever the committed whiskey drinker; tequila shooter; or martini lover out of the warm comforting glow of the familiar straight into the Slovakian Tea World of Intimidating Unfamiliarity will take some substantial marketing and evangelizing. From our standpoint, the entry point is ski lodges and anywhere else that serves hot drinks. Even hot water with Tatratea blended in is strikingly good all by itself (and as easy to make as the common reverse order of “on the rocks”).

We note with great sorrow that the scores from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition and the Beverage Testing Institute are somewhat muted. After tasting, we here at Proof66 declare with complete conviction that the professional critics completely missed the mark on their assessments. These spirits deserved far better. In our opinion, these spirits were simply too unfamiliar for the “trained” (and inevitably traditional) palate to handle. If North Americans can somehow open up their minds enough to embrace a high-proof tea liqueur, then Tatratea should gain quite significant market traction.

[Disclosures: we received 6 750ml bottles of Tatratea liqueur for review; all other products mentioned in this article were acquired on our own.]

by Neal MacDonald, Editor


Published by Proof66.com