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Morning Cocktails With Coffee Liqueurs

Warren Bobrow

It’s never easy to drink cocktails in the morning, unless of course you are correcting your coffee on a weekend. Correcting?  What’s that all about? With the explosion of micro-roasting and micro-distilling there was bound to be a combination of the two cultures.  Hipsters and just plain folk have long combined a bit of lubrication to their morning Cuppa Joe by correcting it with hard liquor.  There is always a place in our collective memory for taking the chill off the morning, or putting courage in the heart of a sailor lashed to the wheel in a storm.

Enter the world of coffee liqueurs. These liqueurs, far removed from the corn sugar augmented, caramel colored and artificially flavored ‘science-class’ concoctions of the 70’s are serious stuff.  They show the quality of the micro-roasted coffee clearly should you choose to drink them on their own.  You might enjoy sipping coffee liqueurs in a classic cordial glass- or perhaps you are like myself- and enjoy the best; in my opinion of course- coffee roasted in NYC since 1907. That is an all-day beverage that I can wrap my fist around. Porto Rico Importing is that brand of coffee that goes in my cup.  A shameless plug, perhaps for their brand (full disclosure: they don’t give me free coffee)- but this is my go/to for flavor. 

coffee liqueursWhen researching an article on American brandy, coffee, coffee liqueur and rum- why not combine all of them in my breakfast. I mean cocktails. I am not usually confused by all this because coffee is the one beverage that goes from morning to night with ease, either hot, iced or served as a base component in my simple, yet aromatic craft cocktails.

There are many ways of using coffee liqueurs in a craft cocktail. First of all I brew the coffee.  Unflavored is my best suggestion.  If you have a coffee grinder, use it with whole beans.  I’ve found that the French Java- with its smoky overtones works best against alcohol.  Fairly priced something like nine dollars a pound, you cannot easily break the bank with this one. I’d freshly grind the coffee beans and make the coffee strong in a French Press.  Always boil your water from cold and let it rest for a few minutes (to taste) for your base ingredient.  You can cold brew it overnight for extra depth as well.  Keep hot or chill to your taste.

They know a thing or two about coffee liqueur in Hawaii and the Koloa Coffee Rum is no exception to the rule of coffee being an enjoyable beverage throughout the day.  From morning to night, this carefully crafted slurp adds more than just refreshment to their already brilliant Hawaiian rum crafted from local cane, bursting with pools of natural sugar.  Simple is the guidance that I suggest for this rum.  The coffee is already delicious- you don’t have to do too much to this rum, woven from Kauai Coffee® and pure Hawaiian Cane sugar.  I like to float it on top of my steaming cup in the morning or for a nightcap.  You can even start a long drink with the Koloa rum at the bottom.  It’s easy to look good with great ingredients!

 Bepi Tosolini, the fourth generation, Italian spirits distiller is bringing their Arabica based coffee liqueur to the USA and with it a taste of Italy.  This vanilla tinged base- woven with soft caramel notes and a long, multi-minute finish is memorable when poured over a Caffè Corretto, which is no more than steaming espresso with a shot of liqueur (or grappa) floated over the top…  Coffee on Espresso?  It’s amazing served steaming hot at the end of the meal- the last flavor on your palate before calling it a night.  Italy in your mind and your belly!

Seattle Distilling Company, located in the veritable ground-zero for hipster coffee roasting techniques- is particularly adept at weaving their brilliantly extracted, local- Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie Orca Blend.  Seattle Distilling believes in purpose, from the grain to glass approach to distilling.  I’m pretty sure that the distilled spirits direction is the perfect combination of smoke to char to roast to sweet to tangy in this mix.  All in one easy to enjoy liquid, which should be your glass.  I’ve found that the perennial favorite, the humble Mocha, built with chocolate syrup, the SDC Coffee Liqueur and salt tinged seltzer water is the Pacific Northwest version of a Manhattan Special.  In this case, this drink is certainly from another parent.

Brandy?  Where does that come in?  Are they all the uncertain varietals in pint bottles that are located next to cheap, flavored whiskey at your local package store?  Absolutely not and I ignore that segment completely.  Raising the quality bar is what is hot right now in American Brandy.  From Germain-Robin in California comes a delightful and well-priced brandy named Millard Fillmore.  Named after the former president of the USA, Mr. Filmore was certainly forgotten by history.  But just like the man- I’m just charmed by this brandy, not because it is inexpensive, but because it is made with the finesse which venerable brands like Germain-Robin brings to your glass.  Sure you can drink it straight up, but I like mine in a coffee drink.  Try adding a tablespoon or more in a float, over your favorite roast of coffee. Or splash some over some vanilla gelato and espresso.  You are in for a sophisticated treat. 

Down in Virginia, Catoctin Creek is building their Distiller’s Reserve Brandy and it’s a magnificent beast.  Brandy from Virginia you might say.  What is that?  Well the Virginia wine world is the unsung hero of the wine scene and how better to experience this terroir then by distillation.  Copper Pot Still chemistry is honed to delightful perfection drop by drop. There is a magnificent depth and softness to the distillate- rested for a time, until it is deemed ready to enjoy by the distillers.  You can make brilliant Brandy Alexander’s with this historically correct brandy.  No more than a couple splashes of dark simple syrup, some heavy cream (whipped just right) a splash of yesterday’s coffee (my way) and that delightful Catoctin Creek Brandy, shaken with ice with some freshly scraped nutmeg to finish?

Oh my!

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner in your cocktails is made simple with coffee, coffee liqueurs, and brandy.  Try them, interchange them and enjoy them with moderation and responsible drinking of course!