It’s safe to say that we love coffee, and with 400 million cups of coffee being consumed in the United States everyday it’s no surprise that we love using it in cocktails. Whether it is used as is or in a liqueur coffee is one of my favorite mixers because it’s versatile and subtle when used lightly, but if used liberally can add a lot of flavor and nice acidity to a drink. The most common way to use coffee as a mixer is probably the “and method” (Bailey's and coffee, Irish coffee, etc), but if you want to branch out here are few riffs on classic cocktails that use coffee.
2 oz. Fleur de Caña 12 Year Rum
.25 oz. Coffee Syrup
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
The first is the 40 Weight Old Fashioned, but before I go too far I’ll let you know something about me. I will try to use just about any ingredient I can in an Old Fashioned. The template for that drink is infinitely riffable, and easy to tweak so sneaking coffee in is pretty easy. Normally, for an Old Fashioned we use a couple ounces of whiskey, a couple dashes of bitters, a touch of sugar, and a splash of water. Some prefer to muddle a sugar cube with a splash of water and then add their whiskey and bitters, but I usually make a 2:1 rich simple syrup with raw sugar. For the 40 Weight Old Fashioned I still make simple syrup but instead of water, I use dark roasted coffee and cut back on the sugar, and instead of whiskey I use Fleur de Caña 12 year rum. The coffee notes are a bit more subtle in this drink because we are using a relatively small amount, but in an Old Fashioned you want the base spirit to shine through, so think of the coffee as seasoning meant to enhance the rich flavors that the aged rum provides.
2 oz. Allen’s Coffee Brandy
1 oz. Dewar’s Blended Scotch
3 oz. Milk
As far as coffee flavored liqueurs go, I feel confident that I do not need to preach the gospel of Allen’s Coffee Brandy or the ubiquitous Allen’s and Milk to a bunch of self respecting Mainers. For years Allen’s Coffee Brandy reigned as the aqua vitae supreme in Maine. In fact, at one time Allen’s Coffee Brandy was so popular that it was the original state bird of Maine. It wasn’t until 1957 when the chickadee farmer’s union staged a coup d'état and forced state lawmakers to change the state bird to an actual bird. All that aside, the next time you make yourself an Allen’s and Milk, drop a shot of Dewar’s Blended Scotch in there. I won’t say it improves the original, because one cannot improve upon perfection, but I will say that even the Mona Lisa needs a frame.
1.5 oz. gin
.75 oz. Campari
.75 oz. Sweet Vermouth
.5 oz. St. George NOLA Coffee Liqueur
If you are in the mood for something a little less milky, a bit more boozy a Cold Brew Negroni may do the trick. This drink still calls for the three main ingredients of a traditional Negroni, gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth, while adding St. George NOLA Coffee Liqueur for good measure. The chicory root that St. George uses sets it apart from other coffee liqueurs giving the NOLA Coffee Liqueur a nutty characteristic that balances the bittersweet and vanilla notes. While a traditional Negroni calls for equal parts, but the addition of the St. George NOLA Coffee Liqueur means you have to tweak the ratios a bit or it becomes a bit too sweet and the bitter notes over power the gin. So we have to ramp up the gin to keep it relevant, and because of the bittersweet sweet flavors that the NOLA Coffee brings into the mix we have to cut back on the Campari and sweet vermouth.