I mostly dislike hot alcohol — warm sake is like drinking soup, mulled wine is disgusting, and spiked cider is better unboiled — so I was already skeptical the first time I tried a Duke of Suffolk, a drink of hot black tea laced with gin and finished with cream. On top of that, it was a warm night in July and I really could not understand why the famous bartender I was drinking with insisted I get one first thing. He was right, though, this is the one good hot cocktail. It came out in a stemmed glass garnished with an unassuming layer of lightly whipped cream. I took a sip and was surprised how refreshing it was and that it drank like an actual cocktail instead of a brunch drink or dessert.
That was in 2017 and the bar, Suffolk Arms, has long since shuttered to the dismay of many, including myself. Thankfully, the drink’s inventor, Giuseppe González, gave me the recipe over email, saying “this is my favorite drink of mine by a lot,” which really means something when you consider Suffolk Arms had a happy hour list with 100 drinks on it.
A Duke of Suffolk works so well because despite seeming very close to an Irish coffee, it avoids Irish coffee’s pitfalls — mainly that the combination of whiskey and hot coffee is gross. You can disagree with me, but I’m right.
Tea, as I have previously noted, has a more refined touch. The equal Earl Grey/English breakfast split in this recipe makes sure you have enough elegant citrus aroma to play with the juniper in the gin as well as some full-bodied brew for structure. This is a cocktail after all.
A Duke of Suffolk is very simple to make at home. You don’t need any special hardware and the ingredients are pretty mundane. Steep a bag of Earl Grey and a bag of English breakfast (Twinings is canon) in a glass and dissolve some sugar in it before adding a shot of gin. Next, pour some cold heavy cream in a jar, top with a lid and shake a few times until it is lightly whipped, float it on the top of your drink by pouring it slowly from the side of the glass.
For exact quantities, here are González’s directions as sent to me:
Duke of Suffolk
1.25 oz (37 ml) Gin (Ford’s or Hendrick’s preferably)
Hot Sweet Tea (Equal blend of English breakfast and Earl Grey sweetened 3:1 with simple syrup)
Process: Build, whip and float cream on top
Even if you have been burned by hot booze in the past, I think the Duke of Suffolk has what it takes to gently warm your heart.