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Five Boozy Coffee Drinks to Pep Up Your Summer
Here in Louisville, summertime is once again gracing our days with bright sunshine, cool breezes, and occasionally the spectacle of a sudden thunderstorm. It's a wonderful time of year, to be sure, and we're all about celebrating the season while working coffee into the mix somehow. Last year, we concocted five summery coffee drinks that go a step or two beyond sticking a pot of drip in the fridge, and this year we've opted to kick things up. That's right, we've got coffee cocktails for you!
Coffee and cocktails have a...complicated relationship. There's an unfortunate trend of thinking that "coffee" is just one flavor on its own, rather than a complex beverage with flavor balances ranging from fruity and bright, to earthy and mellow, to floral and delicate. Choosing a coffee for a cocktail should be much like choosing any other ingredient - it's not an afterthought, it's a building block to support the other flavor's you're working with in the drink. So, that's what we've tried to do here. We have five great recipes for you that put great coffee in the spotlight and carefully select other players for the stage to support it. And that should hopefully add up to a spectacular performance, you know, for your taste buds. Take a look, try them out, and please remember to enjoy responsibly. Here's to the summer!
Brunchy and Bittersweet - Breakfast in Sicily
I'm starting off with something familiar: if you caught our summery recipe guide from last year, you'll recognize Breakfast in Sicily as the final installment of that piece. It's a lightly bittersweet combo of fresh espresso, a complex Italian amaro called Averna, and a bit of soda and citrus to round things out. It's not heavy on alcohol, so it makes a great pairing for weekend brunch, and it will pair perfectly with a plate of pancakes and berries, or even a summery hash of leftover brats and potatoes.
Breakfast in Sicily is super easy to construct, requiring only a shot of espresso, an ounce of Averna, some orange bitters, and soda water. Plus you'll need ice to chill and some for the glass, and we recommend a grapefruit peel for garnish.
The Breakfast in Sicily will require:
- 1.5-2 fl oz espresso (whatever you prefer for your standard double shot)
- 2 barspoons simple syrup
- 1 fl oz Averna
- 3-4 dashes orange bitters
- Orange or grapefruit twist
- 2 fl oz soda
Combine the fresh espresso, Averna, syrup, and bitters in a mixing glass with plenty of ice, and stir until chilled and slightly diluted. Strain over fresh ice in a rocks glass, then add the soda. Express the citrus peel over the glass and/or rub the peel on the rim of the glass, then drop it in the drink and enjoy! This drink is meant to be a touch on the bitter side, but if you would prefer it to be sweeter you can increase the simple syrup or leave out the bitters.
A Sun's-Out Sipper - The Stubby Shandy
This one goes out to our friend Brian Beyke, who's responsible for our love of his Stubby recipe for Aeropress. The Stubby is a recipe which involves a high strength inverted brew in the Aeropress, followed by a steady plunge and dilution with a bit more water. It's a delectable way to pull out rich sweetness, high florals, and plenty of juicy acidity from the right coffee, and the perfect platform for us to make a few subtle tweaks and turn it into an easy and delicious beer cocktail. Instead of diluting (or bypassing, if you like), we're going to brew the Stubby a bit longer with a slightly coarser grind, and then we're going to crash-chill immediately after pressing. The icy cool coffee we get out of our Hyperchiller will then be added to a pint of a beer of your choice, acting as a strong dose of coffee flavor to complement the brew.
The real beauty of this recipe is that you can tweak it to your tastes by selecting a coffee and beer combination that will make your palate happiest. Here, we've used a lightly hoppy pale ale with a fruity natural-processed Mexican coffee, but maybe you'd prefer a caramel-sweet coffee with a dark and bitter stout, or a winey Kenyan coffee with a quaffable pilsner - the combinations are numerous and the results are going to be pretty darn delicious.
The Stubby Shandy will require:
- 25 grams of coffee, ground medium-fine
- 150 grams water, 205 F
- 1 can or bottle of your favorite beer
- Hyperchiller or ice bath to chill the coffee
To brew the Stubby, start by inverting your Aeropress with the plunger set to the 3 on the brew chamber. Add your coffee and 50 grams of water, and stir thoroughly to fully saturate. After 30 seconds, add the final 100 grams of water, and cap the press with a pre-soaked paper filter. Plunge the press slightly to remove any air from the headspace, then at the 90 second mark, flip the Aeropress and press slowly for 30 seconds into a server or vessel with a good pouring spout. Pour the coffee into a prepared Hyperchiller*, then prepare the beer while it chills. Crack open a cold one, and carefully pour into a chilled pint glass to keep the head low. After 2 minutes of chilling, pour the coffee slowly into the beer, and top up with beer if needed. No need to stir here, it should mix quite easily, and it's ready to enjoy! Extra beer? No problemo, just top up your glass as you go!
* If you don't have a Hyperchiller handy, you can use an ice bath to chill the coffee. Add a small metal bowl, or a cocktail shaker tin, to a large container of ice and water, and allow to chill while you brew the coffee. Pour the coffee into the metal vessel, and gently stir for 30 seconds before moving on to the beer. You may need to let the liquid sit for longer than 2 minutes - test the temp with a thermometer if needed, you want the coffee to chill to around 40 F.
Perfect for Picnics - Cold Brew Berry Fizz
The warm summer months bring out the best in fresh berries, which is why we've built this cocktail around their sun-kissed sweetness. Cold brew serves as a flavor base to play off the brightness of the berries, and a bit of carbonation make this fragrant drink really sparkle as you sip. Plus, if you're not into it, you can leave the rum completely out for a virgin version that's just as tasty - just add a bit more cold brew to make up for the liquid.
The Cold Brew Berry Fizz will require:
- 2 fl oz of cold brew
- 1 fl oz of light or dark rum
- 1 barspoon of simple syrup
- A handful of fresh berries (blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries are preferred)
- 0.25 fl oz orange blossom water
- 2 dashes orange bitters
- Whipping siphon with CO2 cartridges, or soda water (see variations below)
- Lemon spiral for garnish
Begin by adding the berries, syrup, orange blossom water, and bitters to a mixing glass. Muddle the berries and allow to steep for about a minute. Add the cold brew and rum, top up with ice, then stir to chill.
Variation: Soda water method
If using soda water, combine ingredients as above in a shaker tin, then add 1 fl oz of soda and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Prepare a tall glass with ice and berries for garnish. Double-strain the liquids into the glass (it should be fairly foamy) and allow to settle briefly before topping up with soda as needed. Lightly stir the drink, then garnish with a lemon spiral and serve with a straw.
Variation: Whipping siphon method
Using a whipping siphon, double-strain the contents of the mixing glass into your siphon (be sure no seeds fall into the siphon), and add 1 fl oz of plain water. Close the siphon and charge with 1 CO2 cartridge, then purge the gas to clear the air in the chamber. Charge with another CO2 cartridge and chill for 1 minute. Prepare a tall glass with ice and berries for garnish. Dispense a small amount of foam from the siphon into the glass, then carefully upright the siphon and de-pressurize it. Pour the liquid from the siphon into the glass, pouring slowly at an angle to reduce foaming. Garnish with a lemon spiral and serve with a straw, and enjoy!
The Cookout Companion - Cherry Bomb
If you're like us, there's no more nostalgic summertime drink than cherry cola. It's perfect for poolside sipping in between dunking your friends underwater, or as a cool refreshment after an afternoon of kicking around a soccer ball. As a grown adult, well, it's still a great little treat, but the cloying sweetness can be a little much. Those base flavors, however, are truly a fantastic match for a long summer day, so we've put them to work here in a coffee cocktail that will knock your socks off.
There's a little bit of planning involved here, as we're going to make some cherry-infused brandy and it's going to taste best after a few days to a week of infusing. If you like, you could substitute this step and use a cherry liqueur of your choosing, but we highly recommend taking the time to make your own.
For the cherry-infused brandy, you'll need:
- 2 cups of pitted cherries, halved
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 8 fl oz of water
- A light pinch of salt
- 16-20 fl oz of brandy
Combine all the ingredients into a jar or airtight container and stir. If your cherries aren't fully covered in liquid, add some more brandy until they're submerged (you can add a little water as well, using the ratio above as a guide). Steep the cherries for at least 2 days, and up to a week, before using. This will keep in the fridge for at least a month, probably longer thanks to the alcohol content.
The Cherry Bomb will require:
- 1.5 fl oz of cold brew
- 1 fl oz of cherry-infused brandy
- 1 fl oz of triple sec or dry curaçao
- 1 fl oz of tequila (reposado or añejo is recommended)
- Orange peel and brandied cherry for garnish
Combine all the liquids above in a mixing glass with plenty of ice, and stir to thoroughly chill and dilute. Strain into a rocks glass with a good-sized hunk of ice, and garnish with a cocktail cherry and an expressed orange peel. If you find the drink a touch too sweet, you can cut back on the brandy or triple sec, or add a spritz of lemon juice. Enjoy responsibly!
Toast The Night - Unfinished Business
If you've ever spent some serious time making espresso, the recipe below might frighten you a little bit. Our final drink is a strong and satisfying coffee cocktail, but it's a little irreverent as far as coffee-making protocol goes. You see, we're going to make a whisky sour, and we're going to do that by making a very underextracted espresso. Espresso as a cocktail ingredient is often treated poorly on accident - it's a bit of an afterthought, used because it's a strong coffee flavor and, let's face it, it's pretty trendy. In this case, its may seem like we're treating it poorly, but in fact we're using espresso to its fullest potential for the drink we have in mind. Even when underextracted, espresso is going to add a lot of complexity, as well as lend its acidity to the sourness we desire in this classic cocktail.
Note: We're also going to use a raw egg white in this drink. This is a modified classic whisky sour, so the addition of an egg white is true to form, but it is optional. You can leave it out entirely, which will result in a far less foamy drink with a lighter texture, or you could substitute it with something like powdered egg whites or aquafaba (chick pea liquid).
Unfinished Business will require:
- 1 fl oz underextracted espresso (the more acidic the better)
- 1.5 fl oz scotch - we went with Oban 14 for its balanced smokiness
- 0.75-1 fl oz lemon juice (juice of half a lemon)
- 1-2 barspoons of simple syrup
- 1 egg white (optional, or substitute)
- Cocktail cherries and aromatic bitters for garnish
First, start by pulling a very short espresso shot. A 1:1 ratio is a great place to start, but the goal here is to produce a small volume of highly concentrated sour coffee. Set that aside for a moment as we build the rest of the drink. In an empty cocktail shaker, add the egg white and dry shake (no ice, no other liquids) for a full minute. This builds our base foam for the drink. Then, add plenty of ice to the shaker, followed by the scotch and simple syrup. Finally, add the cooled espresso and lemon juice to the tin and quickly cap and shake for another minute. It's important to work quickly once the espresso and lemon juice are added, as we don't want to curdle or "cook" the egg white foam. The dilution and chill from the ice will help avoid that. Double-strain the drink into a chilled cocktail coupe, and allow the foam to settle for 30 seconds. Then, garnish with cocktail cherries and bitters. You can adorn the foam with a design by placing a few drops of bitters on the surface, then dragging a toothpick through them to create hearts or swirls. Now, sit back and enjoy the smoky complexity of this fine drink!