Coffee and Cocktails

By

Ru Chen

on July 16, 2024

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Key Takeaways

  • Coffee cocktails blend coffee and alcohol to create unique drinks and desserts
  • Essential ingredients and equipment include coffee, spirits, coffee liqueur, sweeteners, flavorings, mixers, and more
  • Learn how to brew espresso-based cocktails, cold brew cocktails, and coffee liqueur cocktails

Coffee and alcohol can mix to create wonderful evening drinks and sweet desserts. From Espresso Martinis to Cold Brew Mojitos, each recipe comes with exciting variations for you to try. Whether you’re a mixologist or a coffee enthusiast, you can enjoy this intersection between the two crafts. 

Ready to enter the boundless world of coffee cocktails? This is the guide for you. Let’s go over the history of coffee cocktails, popular recipes, and how to source coffee beans for a cocktail.  

Understanding Coffee Cocktails: Basics and Techniques

What Are Coffee Cocktails?

Coffee cocktails were first developed around the late 1800s. The legendary coffee cocktail recipe comes from the first cocktail book, Jerry Thomas’s Bartender Guide: How to Mix Drinks or the Bon Vivant’s Companion. 

Since then, coffee cocktails have flourished, becoming more popular in both cocktail and coffee culture. Today, coffee cocktails are the favorite afternoon pick-me-ups and evening desserts of many. You can order them at bars and restaurants, or even brew them at home. 

Essential Ingredients and Equipment

1. Quality Coffee  

You can’t make any coffee cocktail without coffee. People often prefer the flavor and mouthfeel of using real coffee beans over coffee liqueur. High-quality coffee beans can go a long way in improving your overall coffee cocktail experience. If you are familiar with the coffee brewing process, using coffee beans also grants you more control over the ingredients and taste of your coffee cocktail. 

2. Spirits and coffee liqueur 

Depending on what recipe you’re following, you’ll need vodka, rum, whiskey, or other spirits and liqueurs. 

Coffee liqueur is liquor that contains coffee beans. This thick, syrupy liquid originates from the Netherlands in the 17th century, when the Dutch infused coffee beans in distilled alcohol to create Koffie-Liquor. The French created their own version called Café Parfait in the 18th century. 

Finally, coffee liqueur arrived in the United States in the 19th century. Kahlúa and Bailey’s Irish Cream are the most popular coffee liqueur for a wide range of coffee cocktails. You can also opt for other coffee liqueurs to experiment with making your drink as new liqueurs enter the market. Coffee liqueur ranges between 15% and 30% in alcohol content. 

The beans vs coffee liqueur debate typically comes down to convenience and flavor preferences. It’s a good idea to try out different brands to discover which one suits your tastes best. 

3. Sweeteners, Flavorings, and Mixers

While some cocktail coffee recipes are simple two-parters, you can also add various sweeteners, flavorings, and mixers to your coffee cocktail. Coffee cocktails tend to follow the template of sweet, bitters, and spirit. Pick a suitable ingredient for your cocktail to create a balanced, enjoyable drink.

If you don’t want to interfere with the flavor of your coffee cocktail, white sugar is a good way to simply add sweetness. Honey is usually too thick for cocktails. If you’re making a coffee cocktail with a darker spirit, Demerara sugar is a good option to try. If you’re making a crisp Cold Brew Mojito, crushing brown sugar might be the way to go. 

If you want to add extra taste to your coffee cocktail, you can consider adding flavored syrups or other flavorings. Drink mixers can also help dilute the drink, lowering the alcohol volume of your coffee cocktail, which can be desirable for those who prefer a lighter drink.

4. Tools 

You’ll need a selection of tools to make a coffee cocktail. Making a coffee cocktail involves both bartender and barista equipment for maximum precision and optimal taste.

Shaker: A cocktail shaker is a closed vessel that lets you shake the drink. It thoroughly and quickly mixes ingredients together (while also chilling the drink if ice is added to the shaker). 

Strainer: A strainer functions as a sieve. It serves to remove ice from a mixed drink as it is poured into a serving glass. Depending on the recipes you want to make, you might benefit from a cocktail strainer. 

Muddler: Muddlers are required to mix (AKA muddle) ingredients for a cocktail. If you want to make a coffee cocktail that involves an infusion of fresh fruits and herbs, it’s a good idea to invest in a reliable muddler.

Jigger: Jiggers are the hourglass shaped steel measuring devices used by bartenders. It’s fine to use a simple and affordable jigger to make your coffee cocktail.

Coffee brewing devices: If you’re planning on brewing and/or grinding your own coffee beans, you will need to invest in a grinder and coffee machine. This may mean a French press, AeroPress, espresso machine, or other device that aligns with your preferred coffee and cocktail recipes. 

Stirrer: For some recipes like the B-52, it might be recommended to serve the coffee cocktail with a stirrer. Consider purchasing a stirrer and other coffee cocktail accessories to enhance your experience. 

Key Techniques for Creating Coffee Cocktails

1. Brewing Methods 

Espresso: If you already have an espresso machine at home, using it to prepare coffee for your coffee cocktail can be a good start. 

Cold brew: This method results in silky, crisp, and light coffee. Great if you want to add a fruity or tart flavor to your Old Fashioned or Mojito. 

French press: This method is an immersion brew method that results in heavier, denser coffee. Some coffee cocktail recipes benefit from coffee that is made using a French press.

2. Mixing and Layering Flavors

When making a coffee cocktail, avoid using more alcohol than coffee. A general rule of thumb to follow is to maintain a one-to-one ratio so that neither flavor ends up overpowering. 

If you’re looking to create a powerful, rich flavor, consider using a darker roast so that you can pair it with a heavier flavoring. Caramel, chocolate, and vanilla make for an excellent coffee cocktail. 

3. Garnishing and Presentation

Half of the allure of any cocktail is in the presentation and garnishing. For specialty cocktails like coffee cocktails, consider using edible flowers and whole spices as garnishing. Popular garnishing for coffee cocktails include: 

  • Cinnamon stick
  • Candy
  • Drizzled chocolate
  • Coarse sea salt
  • Coffee beans 
  • Citrus peel 

Dip into your creative side to add the garnish with some personal flair, presenting a delightful, aesthetic coffee cocktail as the end product. 

Popular Coffee Cocktail Recipes

Espresso-Based Cocktails

Espresso Martini

As the most famous coffee cocktail, the Espresso Martini can be found at every bar. It is a potent blend of espresso, vodka, and coffee liqueur. Kahlúa is typically the coffee liqueur used for the Espresso Martini, but mixologists have tried their hand at countless variations of this coffee cocktail. 

White Russian

The White Russian cocktail uses vodka, coffee liqueur, and cream wonderfully. Served with ice in an old-fashioned glass, the White Russian offers a rich and creamy coffee cocktail experience. 

Irish Coffee

All you need to brew the Irish Coffee is Irish whiskey, hot coffee, maple syrup, and whipped cream. Drinking the Irish Coffee through the cream makes for a wonderfully decadent experience, enhanced by the rich flavor of coffee. 

Cold Brew Cocktails

Cold Brew Old Fashioned

A popular cold brew Old Fashioned recipe mixes together cold brew coffee liqueur, rye whiskey, and two dashes of orange bitters. 

To make the cold brew Old Fashioned even more captivating, don’t forget to garnish with an orange twist. The best orange twist should only use a portion of the peel that has had its fruit and pith removed. Add a few large ice cubes to serve on the rocks. 

Cold Brew Negroni

A cold brew Negroni adds the rich flavor of coffee grounds to the classic, bittersweet Negroni. The most important step is to make the cold brew infused Campari, which can be as simple as adding a bag of cold brew to a bottle of Campari for a couple of hours. After that, add in your favorite gin, vermouth, and a few drops of bitters to enhance the cocktail. Mix in a glass and stir until frosted, and you’ll have yourself an exciting new version of Negroni.

Cold Brew Mojito

Many people love adding cold brew to this traditional Cuban cocktail for a new twist. The fresh mint, lemon, and rich coffee blend together for a refreshing pick-me-up. The process involves pouring cold brew on top of a cup of crushed lemon, mint, and sugar. 

Coffee Liqueur Cocktails

Black Russian

The Black Russian consists of vodka and coffee liqueur, making it a popular, two-part coffee cocktail to make. Unlike the White Russian, this version does not include any cream. This coffee cocktail follows the well-loved flavor template that combines spirit, sweet, and bitters. 

Traditionally, the Black Russian is made with Kahlúa, a popular coffee liqueur made with Arabica coffee beans. 

Mudslide

The classic Mudslide is a famous dessert cocktail. It blends together vodka, coffee liqueur, Irish cream, and heavy cream. Mix it all within a cocktail shaker to obtain a coffee cocktail that tastes like a spiked milkshake. This coffee cocktail has a distinct appearance, and you can make it frozen too – best with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. 

Legends say that the Mudslide cocktail was invented in the 1970s in the Caribbean, when someone ordered a White Russian. Out of heavy cream, the bartender decided to use Irish cream as a substitute. Later on, Mudslides became commonly blended with ice cream. Today, you can find fancy Mudslides at bars, as well as the more affordable, boozy milkshake version at chain restaurants. 

B-52

The B-52 is a popular, eye-striking shot that contains Irish cream (usually Baileys), orange liqueur like Grand Marnier, and coffee liqueur. The triple-layered shot has a gorgeous appearance and makes for an excellent, classy drink. While you can down it as a shot, we also recommend drinking it more slowly to savor it. 

Unique and Creative Coffee Cocktails

Coffee Manhattan

The Coffee Manhattan adds coffee to your Manhattan, resulting in a heavy coffee flavor profile, made exciting by the flavors of oak and vanilla. This midday coffee cocktail can be made using coffee liqueur/cold brew coffee, rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, and coffee bitters. Of course, don’t forget the garnishing, which may include coffee beans and an elegantly presented orange peel.

Espresso Tonic

One part cold brew, two parts tonic. The expresso tonic adds a bright, citrus flavor to your usual cup of joe. It’s easy to make and refreshing. All you need to do is pour your tonic water into a glass with an ice cube, and then add a shot of espresso on top. Garnish your espresso tonic with a simple orange or lemon twist, and you’ll be able to enjoy a fun coffee cocktail under the summer sun. 

Finding Great Coffee Beans through Coffee Club Subscriptions

What Are Coffee Clubs?

Coffee clubs offer coffee subscriptions. They deliver freshly roasted beans straight to your doorstep. By joining a coffee club, you can: 

  • Save time on buying coffee beans  
  • Obtain fresh, high-quality single-origin roasts 
  • Gain access to exclusive specialty beans 
  • Try out a variety of exciting beans for your coffee cocktails 

How to Choose the Right Coffee Club

When choosing a coffee club for your beans, take the time to consider your preferred roast level, bean origin, and flavor profile. You can read reviews and explore different subscription plans. Ethical sourcing and sustainability practices are also key points of consideration for many. 

Some of our favorite coffee clubs to consider for coffee or mixology enthusiasts include:

Atlas Coffee Club starts at $9, bringing you an affordable selection of curated single origin coffee. Every month, you can try a new batch of freshly roasted beans, spicing up your coffee cocktail mixing journey. 

Trade Coffee offers flexible subscription plans with offers starting at $15.75. With over 450+ ethically sourced coffees, you can find your favorite flavor profile to complement your cocktail recipes. 

Bean Box starts at $24 but includes a FREE coffee tasting package for you to try out. Through Bean Box, you can obtain unique, award-winning coffee from some of the best roasters around the US.

Conclusion

The coffee cocktail creation process is filled with exciting choices. Recipes, garnishing, coffee choice, and tools can all be modified based on your preferences.

We recommend trying your hand at brewing your own coffee when crafting delicious cocktails at least once. This can provide insight into whether you prefer using your own beans or coffee liqueur. Check out the top to find great coffee beans for your coffee cocktail journey.

About the Author

Content Writer

Ru Chen

Content Writer

Ru Chen is a content writer with several years of experience in creating engaging and well-researched articles. She mostly writes about coffee, business, digital marketing, and law. In her free time, she can be found watching horror movies and playing board games with her partner in Brooklyn.

Ru Chen is a content writer with several years of experience in creating engaging and well-researched articles. She mostly writes about coffee, business, digital marketing, and law. In her free time, she can be found watching horror movies and playing board games with her partner in Brooklyn.