Leave it to the Virgin Hotel to turn afternoon tea on its head, adding Champagne, boozy teapots and a morphing menu of creative finger foods to up the ante of traditional tea time. Their unique take on tea, aptly called the Upside Down Tea Party, takes place at the Commons Club, the second floor bar and restaurant in the downtown Chicago hotel.
The Upside Down Tea Party at the Virgin Hotel is held every Saturday and Sunday, but last weekend they teamed up with Women Who Whiskey Chicago for a whiskey-themed take on boozy tea. Not only was it an easy excuse to day drink, but I playfully considered it “research” for my upcoming trip to London, where I already have reservations for afternoon tea.
Upside Down Tea Party at the Virgin Hotel Takes on a Boozy Twist
Bubbles to Start
While investigating afternoon tea for my London trip next month, I was surprised that it’s not uncommon for afternoon tea to include Champagne. And here I thought afternoon tea was a stuffy affair! (Not that Champagne isn’t stuff, but I didn’t know afternoon tea included day drinking!) The Upside Down Tea Party followed suit, starting our afternoon with a sparkling glass of Champagne.
Champagne Tea Pots & Boozy Tea Pots
When it came for tea time, we had the choice to continue on the Champagne route or switch to stronger stuff. We could choose from three Champagne-based teas and three liquor-based teas featuring bourbon, tequila and vodka.
As President of Women Who Whiskey, I had to order the Tea B.Q. Boozy Teapot, a Lapshang tea mixed with sweet vermouth, Averna Amaro and Thai Peppercorn Bitters, then topped with Old Forester bourbon. It was reminiscent of a Manhattan; the tea adding a nice complexity to round out the bourbon.
My friend stuck with Champagne, ordering the Hey Ricky Champagne Teapot, with English breakfast tea, raspberry, lime and London dry gin, topped with Champagne. It was also delicious, especially the fizzy touch of the Champagne.
Our only issue with both drinks? They were cold! I don’t know if we expected tea to be warm because it was a chilly day or because my mind automatically thinks hot tea when bringing a teacup to my lips, but every time I took a sip I was slightly shocked that my drink was cold. (I might actually ask for warm tea next time if it’s still winter.)
Later I ordered the Matcha Made in Heaven Teapot (Cucumber vodka, Cucumber matcha tea, Sauvignon Blanc, basil, lime and celery), but the cucumber vodka flavor was far too dominant. (I was hoping it’d lean heavy on the matcha.) Those on our table agreed it was our least favorite, but we all happen to be whiskey drinkers, so that really was no surprise!
Tea Bites & Finger Food
Each tea package includes tea bites (details on packages below) that change monthly. Our bites had a distinctive Thanksgiving theme to them since turkey day was a few days after our tea party. Instead of traditional crustless sandwiches, we ate lobster corn dogs, turkey and cranberry profiteroles with turkey liver mousse, and savory pumpkin tarts.
Traditional scones (complete with clotted cream and cranberry compote) also made an appearance, plus pastries. The pastries were my favorite. The apple cider macaron was to die for, but the tiny pecan pie was equal parts adorable and delectable. It was a tough contender for my favorite with the earl gray tea cake with pomegranate gelee.
Upside Down Tea Party
The Upside Down Tea Party was so much fun I already want to go back. Luckily the tea bites and the boozy teapots change on a regular basis, so I’ll give it a few months and head back again. I mean seriously: day drinking and munching on cute food: What’s not to like?!
The Upside Down Tea Party at the Virgin Hotel is held on the second floor in the Commons Club on Saturdays and Sundays from 1-4 pm. Packages are $40 for a glass of Champagne, tea bites, and one boozy tea pot (3 full tea cups, the equivalent of two cocktails). Or $70 for a glass of Champagne, tea bites and unlimited boozy tea pots for 2 hours. Reservations are required and can be made here.
Join Women Who Whiskey Chicago!
Like whiskey? Join Women Who Whiskey’s Chicago Chapter here (or check out other chapters in 20 cities around the world) and join us for whiskey-related events, tastings, happy hours and more. (And yes, men are invited too!)
Disclaimer :: I was treated to the Upside Down Tea Party as President of Women Who Whiskey Chicago in exchange for organizing and promoting the event, not as a writer for Random Acts of Kelliness. I chose to write about the experience independently and, as always, all opinions are my own.