Coffee, Anyone?

By Elyse Glickman

Below is bonus coverage of the coffee cocktail trends in the U.S., as first discussed in the January 2015 issue of Bar Business Magazine, available here:

Salvatore Calabrese from The Cromwell’s Lobby Bar, Bound, in Las Vegas, has created several espresso-inspired cocktails has infused the espresso with other flavors that are really interesting and unique.

Novianto Benito, the house mixologist from Dubai’s Jumeirah Beach Hotel’s 360° Restaurant, shares the recipe for his signature dessert cocktail Café Noisette, which is every bit representative of Dubai’s lavish reputation. “The key is fresh coffee,” says Benito. “I created as an after dinner cocktail but also as a digestive and pallet cleanser. It is a challenge to work with coffee as an ingredient at times due to it’s complexity but once you master it, you can create so many different recipes with it that suit different spirits and tastes.”

Benito points out that their practices of making their own coffee liqueurs and taking an experimental approach contributes as much to the success of their coffee drink as the quality of the coffee itself. While the choice of what coffee is used can make or break the classic Espresso martini, it is important his team take into consideration the aromas and flavors in a given coffee to matching them with a liqueur/spirit that will allow the coffee’s “personality to come through.”

“Coffee cocktails, if done right and with the right balance of alcohol, are many people’s favorites, and because the cost of coffee is not prohibitive it is always a good ingredient to play with because of its versatility,” says Benito.  “The challenge is to master different uses of it and so (the coffee) complement flavors of other ingredients rather than overpowering them. Over-pouring spirits in a cocktail is the classic pitfall, and more does not mean better. Stirring, say, a good Manhattan or an Old Fashioned means paying attention to how long you stir it for and taking care in not breaking the ice, gently does it. Measure your liqueurs, as free pouring a Negroni for example can result in a disastrous cocktail.”

Evan Zimmerman, bar director of the Magnolia House in Pasadena (which blends American gastro pub influences with Korean and Southeast Asian sensibilities) has created the Night Cap, a perfect counterpart coffee cocktail with Coffee Bean Cynar, Dolin Blanc and Fig Bitters that is balanced and sophisticated because nothing is overdone on the ingredients. The Coconut Caucasian at the Hutchinson Cocktails & Grill in West Hollywood, CA, (uniting American and Australian Steakhouse with Indonesian flavors and food recipes), reflects that while a warm coffee drink can be seasonal, its versatility in pairing with so many flavors and spirits (brandy, whisky, caramel, mint, basil, cherry, chocolate, smoked items, dark fruit, red wine) inspires year-round creativity.

Noah Ellis, consultant on the Hutchinson’s bar program and creator of the Coconut Caucasian, advises that when you work on a new cocktail with coffee as a focal point, you need to consider the overall flavor of the cocktail rather than any specific spirit.

“I always try to pick spirits and complementary ingredients that move me in the right direction,” he explains.  “If it’s a coffee liqueur, I pick one that has the right extraction method and flavor (French press coffee liqueur vs. espresso coffee liqueur). If I’m making coffee to use a component, it’s about testing a bunch of different beans from different origins and different roasters using different extraction methods to get the flavor that best suits the cocktail.  There’s no one-size-fits-all answer.”

When Ellis approaches his take on the perennial White Russian, he sees it as a showcase for the right coffee liqueur. He favors Leopold Bros. French Press Coffee Liqueur, because of its tasting like brewed coffee (versus espresso). This lends itself to the other flavors in the cocktail, rather than overpower them.

“I’m sure my friends that are coffee guys are going to face-palm after reading this, but the thing they’ve pointed out and I’ve noticed is that coffees from Africa, and Ethiopia in particular, have higher acidity with a lot of bright fruit notes,” he says candidly.  “As you move through Latin and South America, the flavors tend to be more in the vein of caramel, lighter chocolates, and toasted nuts.   Sometimes you want a more “traditional coffee” flavor, and sometimes you want something a bit brighter and more floral.  Taste the coffee, take note of where it’s from, and make your decision accordingly.”

Rob Floyd, mixologist at 41 Ocean in Santa Monica, CA, believes that if there’s one go-to bean for many uses, it would be Arabica. As its flavor is generally citrus acidic and earthy, he uses this one the most since it seems to balance really well with different spirits. If a recipe calls for a more exotic flavor, he turns to a Robusta style coffee, especially if the dominating spirit is a Mezcal or bold Gins, as these and coffee both compete for attention on the palate. He also believes some of the most coffee-friendly spirits include Sambuca, vodka, vanilla vodka, grain alcohol, Kahlua, Amaretto, Grand Marnier, Irish Cream and Butterscotch Schnapps.

In terms of mixology techniques, he offers the following suggestions to maximize the flavors of the cocktail and create balance:     
1) Coffee must remain the predominant taste.
2) Be aware that espresso is more concentrated than filter or French press, giving it a more “coffee” taste that retains its primacy in the final concoction. Never use espresso prepared in advance, but make it at the moment you need it for a cocktail.
3) Use low fat milk because whole milk leaves a fatty aftertaste.
4) Mix granulated sugar in the hot coffee before cooling it or simple syrup to the cold drink using, at most, half as much coffee is added to the drink.
5) Gin and vermouth are the main enemies of a good coffee drink. Unflavored Vodka and Rum are   used in the most popular cocktails.

He also offers these tips in terms of brewing up a stronger bottom line:
1) Offer them a discount when they add a food item to their drink order. Make it an obviously better deal to order the largest size beverages. Having servers and baristas suggest the largest size to customers who are undecided.
2) The addition of coffee to standard drinks can be used to enlarge your menu with a resulting lowering the cost. 
3) Beverage costs must be controlled if an operation is to reach maximum potential of gross profit from beverage sales. Every reduction in beverage cost percentage renders a higher gross profit.

Block16 Hospitality Signature Irish Coffee
1  oz Jameson Irish Whiskey
4 oz Coffee (we prefer using a darker roast)
2 Sugar cubes (remember, sweeten the coffee, not the cream)
Heavy cream
Fill Irish Coffee glass with hot water to warm vessel, and then discard water. Place two sugar cubes in glass and add 4oz of coffee. Stir coffee and sugar to aid in dissolving, and then add Jameson Whiskey. Using the back of a spoon pressed against the side of the glass, gently layer an 1” of the cream by pouring slowly over the spoon.
The following recipes are created by Bryan David Scott for Cup of Luxury:

Cup of Luxury Triple Threat Martini Caffè
2 shots of fresh espresso (about 3 oz.)
1 oz espresso vodka (a good suggestion is either Voli or Van Gogh)
1 oz vanilla vodka
1/2 oz Frangelico
3 coffee beans

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with copious amounts of ice. Shake vigorously for approximately 30 seconds, and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with three coffee beans. Serve immediately.

Our Classic Irish Coffee
2 oz Baileys
6 oz hot coffee (strongly suggest our Dècouverte coffee)
1 oz Irish whiskey (Jamison or Bushmills recommended)
Dollop of fresh whipped cream (optional)

Combine Baileys, coffee and whiskey in a tall “Irish Coffee” glass. Top with whipped cream. Finish with a light dusting of cocoa and cinnamon.

Chocolate Mocha Latte Supreme
2 oz fresh espresso
4 oz whole milk
3 tbsp chocolate syrup
2 oz Kahlúa

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake for approximately 10 seconds. Pour drink, add ice and top with whipped cream and a dusting of cocoa.