hail mary (spiced iced coffee cocktail)

All week, I was set on making the ultimate bubble tea recipe. I bought the boba and those fat, colorful bubble tea straws. I researched how to cook tapioca pearls to chewy perfection. I tried cooking the boba for different lengths of time, with different amounts of water, over different temperatures. I tested ratios of tea to milk. I even made a gingery, spicy sugar syrup that would take the bubble tea into cozy autumnal territory.

Guess what?

It was a disaster.

Despite all my attempts, the boba never turned out right. Ooozing on the outside, starchy, hard, and unpleasant in the middle, I just couldn’t turn those tapioca pearls into the bouncy boba I saw in restaurants and cafés. I was disappointed and had to toss each batch I worked on.

But all was not lost: It occurred to me that there was one very successful part of this failed recipe—the spiced simple syrup. I realized it would taste damn good in another drink. I went back to the drawing board. I decided to veer away from tea and make the drink with strong iced coffee instead, for an extra-caffeinated buzz.

Oh, and rum. Because if there wasn’t going to be any boba in my beverage, there might as well be alcohol in it.


The drink ended up being a refreshingly spicy, sweet, milky iced coffee cocktail that I dubbed “The Hail Mary.” The name seems appropriate for oh so many reasons. According to Wikipedia, a Hail Mary pass is “a very long forward pass in American football, made in desperation with only a small chance of success.”

After my immense bubble tea failure, I was definitely desperate (not to mention all the desperation I felt for my country and the world this week, sigh). Luckily, this Hail Mary of a cocktail recipe pulled through and brought something delicious out of that desperation (the bubble tea desperation, not the national/international/existential desperation. Sigh).


The past few days have been frustrating, to say the least. This weekend, while you’re doing everything you can to process and/or forget the events of this week, make a Hail Mary. It takes the edge off way better than bubble tea ever could.


hail mary (spiced iced coffee cocktail)
serves: 1 drink
for the spiced simple syrup
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 one-inch piece ginger, roughly chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
for the cocktail
  • 4 oz. milk
  • 2 oz. strong brewed chilled coffee or cold brew
  • 1½ oz. dark rum
  • 3/4 oz. spiced simple syrup (or to taste)
  • Ice
  1. Make the spiced simple syrup: In a saucepan, combine the sugar with 1/2 cup of water. Place over medium heat and stir in the ginger, peppercorns, and cinnamon. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the sugar is dissolved, about three minutes. Remove from heat. Strain the syrup into a jar and discard the solids. Once cooled, cover and store the jar in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
  2. Make the cocktail: In a cocktail shaker, combine the milk, chilled coffee, rum, and spiced simple syrup. Fill the shaker with ice and shake well. Strain into an ice-filled highball glass and serve. (Alternatively, combine all ingredients in a blender with ice and blend together. Then pour into an ice-filled glass and serve. This method yields an airier, frothier drink.)

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