If ever there were a drink that lived up to its name, it’s the London Fog—a drink that creeps in (on little cat feet, you might say, if you were Carl Sandburg) and curls itself around you like a thick blanket. Like a fog, it’s soft and full without being dense and there’s a sort of cozy-grey insulation effect about it. Even better: There’s a debate about which fog it’s supposed to have been born of—London or Vancouver—and then some say it’s the Seattle fog, although this might be due to the popularity the drink gained at Seattle-based Starbucks. Call it whatever you like, but do make it, especially on a day, foggy or otherwise, when you feel like you might enjoy being nuzzled by a warm drink. Make a London Fog for a friend who stops by on a raw morning. Serve a little shortbread cookie or thick piece of toast alongside it, too.
The London Fog is simple to make, and even though it’s often called a “tea latte,” it doesn’t require any special equipment like a milk steamer—nor any hard-to-find (and hard-to-use-again) ingredients like flavored sweeteners or syrups. As long as you’ve got Earl Grey tea, vanilla extract, a milk of your choice, and a big mug to put it all in, you have everything you need.
Get your mug and tea (about a heaping teaspoon of loose Earl Grey tea or a tea bag are both fine) ready while you boil a kettle of water. When the water boils, fill up the mug halfway with water, add the tea, and leave it to steep while you heat enough milk to fill your mug up the rest of the way (probably about 1/2 cup) in a relatively small saucepan. Don’t choose your smallest one, because you’re going to be using a whisk in a minute.
When the milk is hot, with very small bubbles forming around the edges, then take it off the heat. Add about 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract, knowing that pure extract does makes a difference here. I find the vanilla really brings out the natural sweetness of the milk and the bergamot in the tea, but if you like things on the sweeter side, this is also a good time to add a bit of honey. Whisk the milk mixture emphatically, as though making whipped cream, until it is very frothy.
Once the tea has steeped for four or so minutes, remove the tea bag (or tea strainer, etc.). Pour the hot milk into it, using a spoon to hold back the froth until the very last moment, so that it makes a foggy cloud layer on top of the mug. Drink your London Fog deeply.
1 Earl Grey tea bag (or 1 heaping teaspoon of loose Earl Grey tea)
½ cup boiling water
½ cup whole milk (This is not the time for skim—we’re going for creamy-dreamy here. But almond, soy, or oat milks are all lovely substitutes.)
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Honey to taste (optional)
How to Make It
Brew a strong half-cup of tea with the tea and the hot water while you heat the milk in a smallish saucepan over medium heat until small bubbles begin to form around the pot’s edges.
Whisk in the vanilla and, if you like, honey, then whisk aggressively, until the milk is very frothy. (If you have a frothing wand or fancy milk-steaming machine, you could use that instead, but a whisk gets the job done admirably.)
Remove the tea bag from your mug and pour in the milk, holding back the foam with a spoon until all the liquid is in the mug, then spooning it over the top.