It’s that time of the semester again: Deadlines for term projects are fast approaching, final midterms are upon us, and exams lurk just around the corner. For many, staying pleasantly caffeinated is the key to success. What you might not know is that coffee, and the various liqueurs infused with its rich flavours, play an important role in any good bartender’s arsenal. Not all of these drinks will give you a coffee buzz, but at the very least they can serve as a special treat to momentarily take your mind off the mounds of work you need to do between now and winter break.
To start, the classic spiked coffee is a well-deserved favourite. Simply add an ounce of either bourbon, Irish whisky, amber rum, brandy or even reposado tequila to your basic cup of hot-filtered or French press coffee. Unless you’ve got a cast-iron stomach, you’ll also want some kind of sweetener to balance the drink. Brown or granulated sugar will do in a pinch, but the more ambitious mixologist will add a half ounce of sweet liqueur, pairing flavours accordingly. For example, herbal and floral liqueurs like Irish Mist, Galliano or Bénédictine perfectly complement whisky, whereas the rich and syrupy flavours of Grand Marnier, amaretto or crème de cacao taste great alongside rum or brandy. For added flair, rim your cup with granulated sugar or top with whipped cream and cinnamon.
Besides its inclusion in the classic white Russian – a mix of vodka, Kahlúa and cream immortalized by The Big Lebowski – coffee liqueur lends itself to a variety of cocktails to suit both your sweet tooth and your elegant side. Known by the names of Kamora, Tia María or its poster child Kahlúa, coffee liqueur is essentially rum soaked in a mixture of coffee beans, sugar and spices until dark, viscous and sweet. To showcase its oft-neglected flavours, try making a coffee martini: two parts vanilla vodka and espresso shaken on ice with one part coffee liqueur, all strained into the fancy, footed glassware of your choice. If you don’t have access to espresso, strong percolator or cold-brew coffee will do just fine.
Beer enthusiasts can enhance a boring stout or porter by combining two parts beer with one part each of rum and coffee liqueur, and dusting the finished product with chocolate shavings. Finally, raid your parents’ liquor cabinet over the holidays and make a “P.S. I love you”: an elaborate concoction of equal parts Jamaican rum, Bailey’s, Disaronno, coffee liqueur and cream. If you make them one, too, hopefully they’ll forgive the whole ordeal.
For something fruitier and far less pretentious, simply add a bit of coffee liqueur and lime juice to plenty of rum and crushed ice—a not-so-distant cousin of the cheap-but-inebriating “grog” consumed by the 18th-century privateer.