RECIPE: Bellocq’s White Duke Tea Gimlet

Photo credit: Vicky Wasik

“In the summer I like cocktails that are light and hydrating,” says Heidi Johannsen, co-owner of Bellocq Tea Atelier in Greenpoint, and the mastermind behind their myriad tea and tisane blends. With these final days of what was a pretty perfect summer wrapping up with a little more dog-day bite than when the season started, we agree. True to her tea leaves, Johannsen likes to stick close to what she knows best; and she was happy to share some of her go-to drinks with us.

“We make a wonderful sangria with our Corazon de Cien Fuegos and a riff on a La Piscine with our floral, lemongrass blend Le Hammeau,” she says.

But the beauty of tea-spiked cocktails is they are as versatile as their ingredients when it comes to melding with the seasons. “When the weather turns a bit cooler, the flavors become more concentrated, and the cocktails a bit more potent. We’ll steep tea [directly] in alcohol — lapsang in tequila for 1 hour — or prepare simple syrups to extract the nuance of the tea,” says Heidi Johanssen Stewart. “Sometimes I’ll also brew tea a bit stronger — 2 teaspoons tea per 8 ounces water — but not to the point of bitterness.”

What follows is one of Stewart’s favorite tipples, the White Duke Gimlet, which uses their White Duke tea blend, a riff on the classic Earl Grey created with a white Chinese silver needles tea and Sicilian bergamot.

The White Duke Gimlet

Makes 1 cocktail

Note: This recipe calls for vodka, which certainly makes for a nice blank canvas for the tea, but we suggest using a softer version of the spirit, like Prohibition Distilling’s New York corn-based vodka, which is gently sweet and tiny bit floral, or the round, plush mouthfeel of LiV, which is made from Long Island’s former cash crop, potatoes.

1/2 ounce Bellocq The White Duke simple syrup (recipe follows)
2 ½ ounces vodka
Zest from 1 clementine
Juice from 1/2 clementine
Juice from 1/2 lime

1. Put all ingredients in a cocktail shaker; fill with ice.
2. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds; strain into a gimlet glass.

The White Duke Simple Syrup

Makes about 1 cup (enough for 16 cocktails)

Note: The lemon juice will prevent the sugar syrup from crystalizing.

1 cup sugar
½ cup water
Small squeeze of fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons Bellocq ‘The White Duke’ loose tea

1. Combine sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring until sugar has dissolved.
2. Remove from heat, add tea and cover; set aside at least 1 hour and up to 6 hours.
3. Strain and store in an airtight container.

Amy Zavatto

Amy Zavatto is the daughter of an old school Italian butcher who used to sell bay scallops alongside steaks, and is also the former Deputy Editor of Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan. She holds her Level III Certification in Wine and Spirits from the WSET, and contributes to Imbibe, Whisky Advocate, SOMMJournal,, and others. She is the author of Forager's Cocktails: Botanical Mixology with Fresh, Natural Ingredients and The Architecture of the Cocktail. She's stomped around vineyards from the Finger Lakes to the Loire Valley and toured distilleries everywhere from Kentucky to Jalisco to the Highlands of Scotland. When not doing all those other things, Amy is the Director of the Long Island Merlot Alliance.

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