Coffee has long been a supporting actor in cocktails, usually by providing a warming base for sweet liqueurs and whipped cream. But the bean is increasingly taking a star turn at local bars, where it’s mixed with everything from bourbon and rum to Madeira, absinthe and Benedictine in drinks both shaken and stirred.
It makes sense. Kansas City is awash in good coffee these days, thanks to the growing number of specialty roasters and cafes, and bartenders are embracing the trend.
“It’s the exact same reason people are exploring craft beers, wines from around the world and all kinds of spirits,” says Ryan Maybee, co-owner of theRieger Hotel Grill Exchange
and Manifesto. “There’s so much more variety in the category that it’s a natural process to want to experiment with that.”
There’s certainly plenty to play with. Coffee is produced in 50 countries, each with its own growing conditions and processing methods. Add to that differences in roasting techniques, and you can find all manner of flavors in your cup. Not surprisingly then, you first need to consider whether your coffee tastes of walnuts, lemons, flowers, blueberries or something else before deciding how to use it.
“It’s not about following a formula, but creating cocktails that accentuate the flavor of the coffee,” Jim Meehan of PDT (Please Don’t Tell) in New York said during a coffee cocktail seminar at last summer’sParis of the Plains Cocktail Festival
. “If the coffee has chocolate notes, then how do I include chocolate?”
Bartenders attending the session agreed on two things: the first was that coffee choice is entirely personal. Pick one you like. The second is to prepare it using a cold-brew method.
Why? Because steeping coarsely ground coffee in cold or room temperature water over a long period of time (usually 12 hours or more) extracts flavor without dissolving the oils that can make coffee taste acidic or bitter. The result is a smoother, often slightly sweeter brew.
That can be mixed directly into cocktails like the Mocha Martini served atParisi Artisan Coffee’s
Leawood café. Cold-brewed coffee is mixed with cacao nib-infused Samogon and orange peel-cinnamon-rosewater spice syrup and stored in a pressurized keg. Baristas then measure out a drink’s worth, shake with ice, strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a layer of barely sweet, frothy cream that mimics the experience of sipping a latte through layers of foam.
“The texture is part of the experience,” says Kate Blackman, Parisi’s barista trainer and drink inventor.
Cold-brewed coffee can also be used to create coffee cordials and syrups. At Manifesto, bartenders combine ground coffee, a vanilla bean, a cinnamon stick and cocoa while making their cold brew. After steeping and straining, they add rich simple syrup (simple syrup made with twice as much sugar as water) and 114-proof Smith Cross Traditional Jamaica Rum.
The resulting cordial combines with Dark Horse Distillery’s Long Shot White Whiskey, Heering Cherry Liqueur and molé bitters in the straight-up and stirred Black Dog. That’s on the menu now, but Maybee also recommends a cocktail from last winter’s list: the La Fee Suisse, made with coffee cordial, La Fee Absinthe Verte, crème de cacao and cream.
“Absinthe pairs with coffee and chocolate so unbelievably well,” Maybee says. “It’s mind-blowing.”
Rye restaurant in Leawood serves its Coffee Cigarettes (Missouri tobacco-smoked bourbon and espresso cordial) over a single ice “cube” shaped by one of those nifty Japanese ice ball makers while you watch. And at Tannin Wine Bar Kitchen
, the Madeira Flip mixes coffee cordial with orange gomme syrup (a thickened version of simple syrup), Madeira and an egg; it’s garnished with cinnamon and can be served shaken or frozen.
Coffee can also be infused directly into spirits, something bartenders take quite seriously. A recent Facebook thread found pros from Kansas City and elsewhere comparing the benefits of using sous vide, centrifuge, vaporizer, rapid infuser and homogenizer systems to extract coffee flavors from beans.
Blackman’s method is simpler: muddle coffee beans until coarsely cracked, cover in spirits, macerate for several hours, and then strain and store. For her Café Negroni, Blackman infuses Campari with Guatemalan coffee beans and then stirs the strained spirit with gin and Cocchi di Torino sweet vermouth for a spin on the classic Negroni.
The approach is even more straightforward atGrünauer
, where bartender Mark Church infuses Pimm’s with whole Julius Meinl espresso beans. That’s mixed with Auchentoshan Classic Scotch whisky and lapsang souchong syrup and garnished with an orange twist to make the balanced and complex Schottisches Frühstück (Scottish Breakfast).
Even easier is making coffee ice cubes: just freeze coffee in an ice cube tray. That’s what Brock Schulte did while creating the Teddy’s Last Drop for the HotelPresident’s Drum Room Lounge
. Shaking the cubes with rye whiskey, Benedictine, Averna and Angostura bitters added a unique and necessary note to the drink, he says.
“There are so many flavors and varieties in coffee,” says Schulte, who now tends bar at the Rieger. “It brings something new to your palate.”Manifesto’s Coffee Cordial
The cold-brew method is perfect for making a coffee cordial, says Ryan Maybee, co-owner of the Rieger Hotel Grill Exchange and Manifesto. You can use specialized coffeemakers from companies like Toddy or Hario, but a French press also works well. Or simply combine coarsely ground coffee and other ingredients in a container, allow them to steep and then filter through a cheesecloth-lined strainer.
Makes about 3 cups16 ounces coarsely ground coffee 1 vanilla bean 1 cinnamon stick 1/2 cup dark cocoa 30 to 40 ounces cool water Rich simple syrup (instructions follow) Smith Cross Traditional Jamaica Rum
Combine coffee, vanilla bean, cinnamon stick, cocoa and water in a cold-brew coffeemaker. Let steep for 24 hours. Strain coffee; note the volume of liquid produced. Combine coffee with equal amounts of rich simple syrup and rum.
Forrich simple syrup
: Combine 2 parts sugar with 1 part water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until sugar is dissolved. Cool, and then refrigerate until needed.Per 2-ounce serving: 73 calories (6 percent from fat), trace fat (no saturated fat), no cholesterol, 8 grams carbohydrates, trace protein, 1 milligram sodium, no dietary fiber. Manifesto’s Black Dog Makes 1 drink 1 1/2 ounce Dark Horse Distillery Long Shot White Whiskey 3/4 ounce Coffee Cordial 1/2 ounce Heering Cherry Liqueur 2 to 3 dashes Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters
Stir all ingredients over ice and strain into chilled coupe glass. Garnish with whiskey-soaked cherries.Per drink: 204 calories (1 percent from fat), trace fat (no saturated fat), no cholesterol, 10 grams carbohydrates, no protein, 2 milligrams sodium, no dietary fiber. Manifesto’s La Fee Suisse Makes 1 drinks 1 ounce absinthe (French or Swiss) 1 ounce Coffee Cordial 1 ounce crème de cacao Dark 1 ounce heavy cream
Shake all ingredients vigorously over ice for 15 seconds. Strain into chilled goblet. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.Per drink: 293 calories (57 percent from fat), 10 grams total fat (7 grams saturated), 39 milligrams cholesterol, 17 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram protein, 11 milligrams sodium, no dietary fiber. Grünauer’s Schottisches Frühstück (Scottish Breakfast)
Mark Church infuses Pimm’s with Julius Meinl espresso beans from Austria and simple syrup with smoky lapsang souchong tea to make this cocktail for Grünauer.Makes 1 drink 2 ounces Auchentoshan Classic Scotch whisky 1 ounce coffee-infused Pimm’s (instructions follow) 1/2 ounce lapsang souchong tea syrup (instructions follow) Orange peel, for garnish
Fill a mixing glass partway with ice, and then add whisky, infused Pimm’s and syrup. Stir until chilled. Place one or two large ice cubes in an old fashioned glass; strain cocktail into glass and garnish with a strip of orange peel.
For coffee-infused Pimm’s:
Combine 4 ounces whole espresso beans, 2 vanilla beans (split open), the peel of one orange and one 750 milliliter bottle of Pimm’s in a large container (a half-gallon glass canning jar works well). Save the empty Pimm’s bottle. Cover mixture and allow to infuse at room temperature for one day. Strain and discard espresso beans. Return vanilla beans, orange peel and Pimm’s to the container; allow to infuse for one to two more days. Strain and discard vanilla beans and orange peel. Pour Pimm’s into reserved bottle, seal and refrigerate until use.
For tea syrup:
Combine 1 cup water and 1 cup granulated sugar in a saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, add 5 to 6 lapsang souchong tea bags and allow to steep as mixture cools. Remove tea bags and refrigerate syrup until use.Per drink: 212 calories (none from fat), no fat, no cholesterol, 4 grams carbohydrates, no protein, 1 milligram sodium, no dietary fiber.