Coffee Cocktails: Alcohol and Caffeine Go Together Quite Nicely

By Jonah Flicker |

© Danny Ghitis

Coffee and alcohol don't initially seem like the best ingredients to mix together in a cocktail. After all, alcohol is a depressant, and caffeine is a stimulant - won't a coffee cocktail just send your body into some sort of mixed message spiral? But bartenders around the nation are incorporating coffee in a variety of forms, from ground beans to syrup to infused liqueur, into their drink menus, finding that it actually complements many spirits quite nicely.

Kobrick Coffee Co. in New York City has been on the vanguard of this movement, featuring an expansive and creative coffee cocktail menu. "The right coffee paired with the right spirit works as well as the right liqueur paired with the right spirit," said cocktail consultant Tobin Ludwig. "Coffee complements spirits because it offers dynamic aromas, flavors and complexity that when done right, work beautifully with the nuanced flavor of the spirit." He suggests looking at coffee in the same way as wine, as its flavor is affected by similar variables like terroir and processing method. "If I had to call one spirit best for complementing coffee, it would be aged rum," said Ludwig. "The qualities of an aged, rum from sweetness level to body to complexity of flavor, tend to work beautifully with coffee." As far as the effects of combining caffeine with alcohol, he doesn't see an issue: "Another seemingly obvious note is the buzz," he said. "Adding caffeine to cocktails, as you would expect, creates an uplifting advantage."

Here are some of the coffee cocktails available at Kobrick Coffee Co.:

Just Past First Crack

Ingredients

1 oz. Dolin dry vermouth
1/4 oz. Green Chartreuse
1 oz. J.P.F.C. Indian monsooned Malabar coffee syrup
1 oz. lemon
3 drops of J.P.F.C. tincture

Instructions

Build in shaker, add ice and shake vigorously for 8 seconds. Strain into chilled coupe.
Garnish with cracked coffee bean

Three Hour Kyoto Negroni

Ingredients

20 g Kenya AA auto-drip grind

10 oz. Campari

10 oz. Fords Dry Gin

10 oz. Contratto Rosso 1 second drip

Instructions

Combine Campari, Ford's Gin, and Contratto Rosso Sweet Vermouth in a traditional Japanese Kyoto style cold brew tower, and slowly (about 1 drip per second) drip through a single origin Kenya to create a unique take on the classic Negroni. Pour 3 oz into mixing glass. Add ice. Stir gently for 8-10 seconds. Strain into a double rocks glass over ice. Garnish with an orange peel.

Wallflower, a charming little bar and restaurant in the West Village, has an interesting coffee cocktail on its menu. The key ingredient in this drink is coffee-infused Cynar, which they make by putting half a pound of coffee in a bottle of the amaro and letting it sit for two days. The result is the recognizable bittersweet Cynar, with a healthy dose of coffee flavor to round it out.

Xavier Herit

Ingredients

1 3/4 oz. Elijah Craig 12 yrs old

1/2 oz. Coffee Beans infused Cynar

1/4 oz. Cacao Nib and Maple Syrup

1/4 oz. Letherbee Fernet

Instructions

Combine all ingredients in mixing glass over ice, strain into glass.

Grant Wheeler, beverage director at The Garrett East and West, has a few suggestions for coffee cocktails that are simple enough to make at home - he suggests adding milk to any of these unnamed concoctions if you are so inclined.

Grant Wheeler's Coffee Cocktail #1

Ingredients

3/4 oz. ancho Reyes liquor

3/4 oz. apple brandy or whiskey

8 oz. cold brew

Instructions

Combine all ingredients and stir.

​Grant Wheeler's Coffee Cocktail #2

Ingredients

3/4 oz. maple syrup (we used smoked maple which was a nice touch)

3/4 oz. overproof dark rum

8 oz. cold brew

Instructions

Combine all ingredients and stir.

​Grant Wheeler's Coffee Cocktail #3

Ingredients

1/2 oz. ginger syrup

1 oz. reposado tequila

8 oz. cold brew

Instructions

Combine all ingredients and stir.

Pam Wiznitzer of Seamstress has a few coffee cocktails she created, including a take on the classic Negroni that incorporates another coffee-infused amaro - this time, of course, it's Campari.

Cold Brew Negroni

Ingredients

1 oz. cold brew-infused Campari

1 oz. gin

1 oz. sweet vermouth

Strong ground coffee

Instructions

First fill a mason jar or similar vessel halfway with coffee grounds and pour in the Campari. That can steep for as little as ten minutes, or as long as overnight, depending on how much coffee flavor you're aiming for. Strain the coffee out with a standard coffee filter, add equal amounts of gin and sweet vermouth, stir with ice, and strain into an old fashion glass with more ice and a slice of orange.

Upside Down

Ingredients

1 can espresso (we used Starbucks Doubleshot, you could also try Illy or High Brew)

1 mini Frangelico bottle

1 oz. rum

1/2 oz orgeat, an almond syrup

Instructions

Toss about a third of that can of espresso (drink or pour out the rest), the rum, and the orgeat into a shaker with ice. Shake it around and carefully pour the mixture back into the can the espresso came in—or use a funnel if you don't trust your pouring abilities. Stick a straw into the can and then insert the mini Frangelico upside down into the mouth of the can, which should just fit if you give it a good shove.

Pressing Issue

Ingredients

8 oz. Patron Silver

Cherries

Almonds

Lemon peels

Orange bitters

3/4 oz. Lemon juice

3oz. Simple syrup

Cold brew ice cubes

Instructions

Ahead of time, make some strong coffee and, once it has cooled off, pour it into an ice tray and let it freeze overnight. In a French press (presumably the next day), combine a handful of chopped cherries, some almonds, and some lemon peel—the fruit-and-nut mixture should fill about a quarter of the vessel. Pour in the tequila and allow it to infuse for about 15 minutes. Give it all a stir and then add the simple syrup and 12 dashes of orange bitters. Depress the plunger on the French press and pour 2 3/4 ounces of the infused tequila into a glass that has a few coffee ice cubes and .75 ounces of lemon juice in it. Garnish with a cherry if you're feeling fancy.

Hangar 1 Vodka and Boodles Gin have collaborated on a few different coffee cocktail recipes, again simple enough to make at home, but complex enough to emphasize the interplay between the alcohol and the rich flavor of the coffee.

Orange Cafe Flip

Ingredients

1 oz. Hangar 1 Mandarin Blossom Vodka

1 oz. Heavy Cream

1 oz. Espresso

1 whole Egg

Fresh Nutmeg

Instructions

Add all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake without any ice to emulsify the egg. Shake again with ice and strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.

British Brew

Ingredients

1 oz. Boodles Gin

1 oz. Cold Brew Coffee

Tonic water

Sea salt

Instructions

Rim a Collins glass with sea salt. Add ice and Boodles gin. Add cold brew coffee and top with tonic water.

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