“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.