Coffee, that deliciously rich and bitter drink has been used in some of the world’s most famous cocktails, from the Irish Coffee to the Espresso Martini. With National Coffee Day coming up on the 29th of September and International Coffee Day a few days later, on October 1st, we have 5 fantastic Coffee cocktails for you to make! Like everything in life, quality shines through, so don’t go scrimping on the quality of the coffee you use!
Beyond the drink itself, the flavour of Coffee can be introduced to recipes in a number of other ways. Most commonly through the use of Coffee flavoured liqueurs, but there are also plenty of Coffee bitters out there to try too. Just a few drops of these potent little modifiers in place of your typical aromatic bitters can subtly but significantly transform your typical Manhattan, Old Fashioned or Whiskey Sour.
Without further ado, here are five great coffee cocktails for you coffee lovers out there. We’re going to mix it up a bit and start with something that’s a little less obvious, a drink that is more brunch time than late night dance floor inducing.
01. Coffee G&T
This is one of those surprising little drinks that’s far more intriguing than its simple list of ingredients would lead you to believe. ‘Coffee and Tonic’?! We hear you say, but trust us, it’s a combination you need to try.
Coffee and Gin work really well together as they have some overlapping flavour profiles. The slightly sour and bitter notes found in juniper complement those same flavour profiles found in coffee beans.
The bitter notes of quinine used in Tonic also combine well with the soft bitter notes in both gin and coffee. All these surprisingly complementary flavour profiles unify the drink without overpowering it.
What elevates the recipe is the splash of fresh orange juice. Fresh citrus is a classic accompaniment to both Gin and Tonic. if you’ve never tried a twist of lemon or orange on an espresso, we highly recommend it.
Citrus with chocolate is a great combination (chocolate orange for example…yum), and it’s not much of a leap to see how citrus and coffee also works. It brings a whole new dimension to the drink, lifting what could otherwise be a one-dimensional bitter drink.
Coffee, fresh Orange Juice and booze, this is basically brunch in a glass! Step away from that Mimosa and try the Coffee G&T.
02. Espresso Martini
This modern classic was created by one of the fathers of the modern cocktail world and all-round cocktail legend, Dick Bradsell. Not only can learn how to make it, you can also become a master of this recipe by reading our technical article on making the Espresso Martini.
As this is an article on Coffee in cocktails, one of the keys to making a great Espresso Martini is in the name, Espresso. This is not a Coffee Martini, it’s an Espresso Martini, and for good reason. The high oil content of an Espresso, over other styles of coffee, is needed for the rich silky mouthfeel of the Espresso Martini. It’s also essential for creating the iconic and luxurious foam that sits on top of the drink. An Espresso Martini without a crown of thick white foam, that’s just sad!
You may not think that the Espresso Martini is ripe for creativity, but you can have some fun with this recipe once you get comfortable with the basics. You can switch out the Coffee Liqueur for a nut or cocoa flavoured Liqueur to add an additional flavour profile. Vodka can be switched out for most base spirits, especially brown spirits like Rum, Whisk(e)y or Brandy. Gin also makes a great variation, especially if you switch out the Coffee Liqueur for an Orange Liqueur too. So many ways to customise!
03. White Russian
You can’t mention this recipe without bringing up Jeff Bridge’s iconic character, The Dude from the 1998 movie ‘The Big Lebowski’. Movies and TV shows have always used drinks, especially cocktails, to say something about their characters. The Cosmopolitans on Sex and the City, or Bond and his Martini of course. Along with Halle Berry in Bond, who also created a craze for Mojitos in the early 00s. How could we forget Daniel Craig who then stirred controversy with a bottle of Heineken in 2012. All of this to say, that what’s drunk on screen will always impact the drinking culture at large.
This luxuriant 1960s twist on the Black Russian from the later part of the 1940s, would likely have remained fairly obscure without being thrust into the spotlight via movie stardom.
Mix it by pouring equal parts Vodka, Coffee Liqueur and heavy cream into a lowball glass then filling it with ice. Simple and utterly delicious. Up the Vodka content if you want something a little lighter bodied and more boozy. However you prefer it, just don’t count the calories!
This modern recipe is half-way between an Espresso Martini and White Russian. However, it’s easier to make than an Espresso Martini, and more flexible than the White Russian. Simple to make, the recipe is even in the name, so you’ll never forget it.
Simply pick your favourite spirit, add an ounce (30ml) of it to a lowball glass with an equal amount of Espresso (1oz/30ml). Then add two ounces (60ml) of your preferred cream liqueur (we used Amarula in the original version of this recipe). Ensure the three liquids are well combined, then fill the glass with cubed ice, add a twist of orange and you’re done!
Unsurprisingly, the recipe works well with the deeper flavours of brown spirits such as Cognac, Rum or Whisk(e)y. However, it’s also delicious with citrus lead Gins, and for those who like smoky flavours, it works well with Mezcal too. Of course, if none of those appeal, the always easy to mix with Vodka works great too.
05. Irish Coffee
A pint of Guinness, a Dry Martini, the Irish Coffee…Some drinks are so iconic you can spot them at a glance from a million miles away. The rich, dark, hot, sweet and boozy base with the bright white layer of heavy cream, and just a sprinkle of brown sugar on top. There’s no mistaking it!
Perfecting this look is a skill, but it’s highly achievable with just a couple of key tips. Firstly, the Coffee and Irish Whiskey base needs sugar, not only to make the recipe more unctuous and delicious, but it’s also needed to make the mix denser, allowing for a perfect separation between the black Coffee and the white layer of cream.
Secondly, not essential, but a helpful tip. Stir the Coffee, Whiskey, and sugar mix to get it spinning in the glass. This’ll make it easier to get a smooth even layer of cream as you drizzle it on. Pouring the cream onto a spoon to slow the flow of cream as it’s layered on top of the Coffee, will also help ensure a crisp separation.
Finally, make sure to lightly whip some air into the heavy cream before you pour it on top. Don’t whisk so much that it won’t pour, just enough to add a little air to allow it to layer perfectly on top of the Coffee. You can do this simply by shaking the cream in a bottle, or a cocktail shaker (without ice) or lightly whisking with a balloon whisk.
These are simple and uncomplicated tips that will ensure you always get the perfect looking Irish coffee. Also, if somehow you don’t like Irish Whiskey, you can switch in your preferred Whisky or make a French Coffee by using Cognac.