By Joanne Thomas

The very name London fog evokes images of gray, wintry days when there's a chill in the air, it's threatening to rain and you have an overwhelming desire to abandon your hurried urban assignments and dart inside a cozy coffee shop with friendly lighting and plush seating. What's the perfect warm beverage to fit such a sojourn? Not coffee – it's too jostling. Not hot chocolate – too bedtimey. A plain old cup of tea just won't do either. Instead, order a London fog, a blend of piping-hot Earl Grey tea, vanilla syrup and steamed milk.

Iced tea
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The London fog is deliciously warming and just slightly sweet from the vanilla syrup and slightly special thanks to the complex but subdued flowery, citrusy, bergamot-infused flavor of the Earl Grey. Fortunately, you don't need to hit the streets of a foggy city, such as London or Vancouver, British Columbia, where the drink was (probably) invented, to enjoy this evocatively named Earl Grey latte. It's very easy to make at home.

London Fog Ingredients

Earl Grey tea and vanilla syrup are both easy ingredients to find in any well-stocked supermarket, and other than milk, they're all you need to make a London fog. Typical measurements, although you can play with the ratios to suit your tastes, are 1 Earl Grey tea bag (or 1 teaspoon of loose-leaf Earl Grey) brewed with 8 ounces of boiling water, 4 ounces of milk and 1 ounce of vanilla syrup. You might also eyeball it, filling two-thirds of your chosen cup or mug with boiling water and the remaining third with hot milk, then stirring in 1 to 3 teaspoons of vanilla syrup to taste.

How to Make a London Fog

There are three easy steps to making a London fog at home: Brew the tea, heat the milk, and stir the tea, milk and vanilla syrup together. Brew the Earl Grey tea by bringing water to a boil, whether it's in a kettle, small saucepan or microwave, then steeping the tea bag in the boiled water for up to three minutes. If you prefer to use loose-leaf tea, use 1 teaspoon in a tea infuser or cloth tea bag. The longer you steep the tea, the stronger it will be, but don't do it for longer than three minutes or the tea may taste bitter. If you like really strong tea, use two tea bags or 2 teaspoons of loose leaves.

Unless you have a milk steamer, you'll need to trade the coffee-shop method for heating milk in a saucepan or microwave. Don't let the milk boil – just bring it up to a steaming, barely simmering point; then turn off the heat. If you're using a microwave, heat the milk in 10-second increments to avoid overheating it. To replicate the frothiness of steamed milk, vigorously whisk the hot milk before blending it with the tea. You might also use an inexpensive electric milk-frothing tool. Now just stir the three components of the London fog together in your cup or mug, and enjoy.

London Fog Ingredient Substitutions

You can switch up the type of milk you use for a custom cup of London fog without altering the taste. Low-fat and fat-free dairy milks lower the calorie and fat content and also cut the richness of the latte. If you can't or don't want to use dairy milk, simply substitute your favorite nondairy milk. Milks with a mild or neutral flavor, such as soy or almond milk, are a better choice as the delicate notes of the Earl Grey might be overwhelmed by stronger flavors. If you don't want the added sugar in the vanilla syrup, look for a sugar-free version of vanilla syrup or experiment with adding a drop or two of vanilla extract to the milk. You might even infuse the milk with a fresh vanilla pod if you have some on hand.

London Fog Variations

An almost infinite array of variations on the tea, flavored-syrup and hot-milk components of the London fog are possible. Some combinations have coined names inspired by the original, such as the Dublin fog made with Irish breakfast tea, the Bangalore fog with chai tea and the Tokyo fog with green tea. Variations with different syrups include the Mexican fog with agave syrup, the Halifax fog with maple syrup and the Maui fog with coconut syrup. Other teas you might like to try include yerba mate, rooibos and peppermint, along with alternative sweeteners like honey, almond or hazelnut syrup, or regular sugar.