Coffee and booze are meant for each other—just look to that great pub staple, the Irish Coffee, for proof. Coffee’s buzz is gently mellowed by booze’s gentle caress, and java’s pungent, rich flavors can stand up to a wide range of spirits and other cocktail ingredients. Just as there are many ways to prepare coffee—black? Au lait? Pumpkin-spiced?—there are a bevy of ways to mix it with booze. Here are three excellent caffeinated cocktails, from fernet-spiked cold brew to a hot, indulgent cup of Southern hospitality.
Wake up to Coffee Cocktails
Fernet’s distinct (and divisive) bitter flavor is certainly an acquired taste, but there’s no denying the spirit pairs great with another popular, bitter, acquired taste: cold brew coffee. While Fernet-Branca may be the most well known brand in the states, Mexico has its own popular brand, Fernet-Vallet, which cocktail pioneers like Ivy Mix of Brooklyn’s Leyenda have begun introducing to American palates. To ease customers into the experience, Mix stirs the pungent spirit with strong cold brew, floral St-Germain and tonic—an unsual but popular ice coffee companion in Spain.
Chauncey Roach of the Bit House Saloon in Portland, Oregon, was inspired to create this Southern spin on an Irish Coffee upon awaking from a sultry dream about a certain TV cooking show host. Homemade pecan milk and sorghum syrup join bourbon and hot coffee in a silky, nutty cocktail, which is topped in excessive Paula Deen fashion with a luxurious helping of Chantilly cream and pecan brittle.
Seattleites know a thing or two about coffee—and how to booze it up with amaro. Tasked to create a cocktail with whole beans in an “iron bartender” competition, Liberty Bar co-owner Keith Waldbauer opted against muddling (the resulting cocktail would be way too bitter) and chose instead to stir the beans directly into the drink, gently releasing their oils and producing more subtle coffee notes. The drink proved a hit and quickly made its way onto the permanent menu at the bar. Strong and just a little spicy, it’s an incredible digestif.