For seasoned brunch-ers, coffee cocktails do double duty. Not only will they help you partake in an earlier-in-the-day happy hour, but they’ll also help you wake up. According to Emile Chaillot, who is in charge of mixology for Marie Brizard Wine and Spirits, a morning coffee cocktail is “… something that you could almost have after a rough night or just when you wake up in the morning instead of having just a coffee, like having a little bit of liquor into and that will give you a kick for the day, if I can say, but always responsibly.”
Additionally, coffee cocktails are endlessly versatile. They can be served either hot or cold. Coffee can be paired with a wide variety of spirits and liqueurs, herbs, spices and other flavorings. They can be consumed at nearly any time of day, be it celebratory (or recovery-fueled) morning brunches, as an afternoon pick me up or later in the evening as a way to cap off your meal. It’s important to remember the time of day it’ll most likely be consumed when crafting the perfectly constructed coffee cocktail. Chaillot noted that pre-dinner coffee cocktails are likely to be lighter, with bartenders wrangling and tamping down on the sugar content often inherent in these cocktails, while their after-dinner counterparts may be richer.
Marie Brizard’s original, signature liqueur, the herbaceous Anisette, can be used in cocktails in all manner of ways. For instance, Chaillot mentioned that a few drops of it can be used to rinse a glass for a Grasshopper cocktail. And at OUISA on the West Side of Manhattan, there will soon be a drink on the dessert menu that is an alcoholic riff on the frappés popular and ever-present on the streets of Greece.
“[I]t was invented by accident by Nescáfe. The guy was doing a demonstration, one of the brand ambassadors or representatives of frappé was doing some demonstration … I think he was like making hot chocolate for kids, but he realized he didn’t bring chocolate, he only had the instant coffee,” says Johnny Livanos, the general manager at OUISA and part of the Livanos Restaurant Group. “And then he didn’t have any hot water, so he just blended it up really quickly with cold water, and when you mix up the instant coffee with cold water, if you shake it, it actually creates this really awesome foam, it’s extremely frothy.”
Livanos’ version combines Fernet Branca with rye whiskey, Anisette, the instant coffee of the original frappé and the characteristic foam.
Chaillot says that green or white mint liqueurs will also pair well with coffee, adding a freshness and a brightness to the cocktail. She’s also a fan of using the white cocoa and brown cocoa liqueurs with coffee.
“… It’s the classic. You don’t take much risk going with that because coffee, cacao, works pretty well. And specifically if you look at it as well, it’s a lot inspired [by] food pairing. Here in France, for instance, if you’re going to have a coffee or espresso at the end of your meal, you always have a little piece of chocolate,” says Chaillot. “So coffee and chocolate works well together and brings [a] little bit of sweetness that might help to balance or counterbalance the caffeine or very strong taste when you have an espresso, so it works very well together.”
When making a coffee cocktail, any kind of coffee cocktail, Livanos says it’s important to remember the specific factors and challenges posed by how you’re planning on serving it. Cold coffee cocktails must be kept cold and can’t be too diluted or watered down, while hot coffee cocktails have to be put together quickly to make sure that the guest receives the drink while it’s still quite hot. Cold drinks can also benefit from the addition of protein, like an egg white, in order to smooth and balance the flavors in the drink.
“[O]nce you add a little bit of cream or egg, the drink is going to be more smooth, if you don’t add the protein, it’s going to be more liquor-forward,” says Rael Petit, partner at the Mulberry Project in New York City.
Coffee cocktails can take practically whatever form you’d like them to. Whether hot or cold, light or weightier, chocolaty or brightly flavored with herbs, coffee cocktails may be the most versatile beverage you can drink early in the morning or late at night.
“I love coffee cocktails,” says Livanos. “When done right, they’re a fun way to end your meal and keep you going.”