Bringing liqueurs in from the cold

A new generation of coffee liqueurs are using cold brew to introduce a third-wave twist to cocktail menus. Flavour guru Pritesh Mody puts them through their paces. Photo by Gary Smith

Coffee has come a long way in recent years, but mainstream coffee cocktails still seem stuck around variations of the espresso martini, using uninspiring liqueurs such as Tia Maria or Kalhúa.

It looks like that is all about to change. There are now some really interesting coffee liqueurs on the market, made by people who love speciality coffee, often using cold-brew coffee as the base.

Conker Spirit tried 96 recipes before finding the perfect blend that let the subtle notes of coffee shine through the alcohol in its cold-brew coffee liqueur. The company worked closely with Dorset roastery Beanpress Coffee, which supplied Conker Spirit with the right blend of dark chocolately Brazilian and citrusy Ethiopian beans.

The brains behind Austrialia’s Mr Black Cold Press Coffee Liqueur had a similar idea, but decided to take it one step further by roasting and grinding the beans in-house. Its blend is a lighter roast of Brazilian, Ethiopia and Papua New Guinea beans, bringing a fruity toffee body capped off with a zesty marmalade.

If you’re looking for a liqueur with a punch that uses a single-origin coffee, French crafted Fair Café Liqueuer offers bold notes of almond and hazelnut, and is made by directly infusing arabica from Veracruz, Mexico, into the alcohol.

To put these liqueurs through their paces, I’ve created a series of fairly simple cocktails that will add a delicious caffeine kick to any drinks list. One thing to consider is that these liqueurs often lose much of the acidity and lighter notes that are so popular in modern coffees, so it’s worth experimenting with citrus twists or even sharp berries to introduce these notes to the final drink.

 

Black & Stormy

  • 20ml Mr Black Cold Press Coffee Liqueur
  • 40ml Talisker Storm Single Malt Scotch Whisky
  • Small pinch of sea salt
  • 3 dashes of Fee Brothers
  • Black Walnut Bitters
  • Burnt orange twist

Build in a tumbler and garnish with a burnt orange twist.

This cocktail pairs the richness of Mr Black with the bold yet beautifully balanced sweet and salty flavours in Talisker Storm Whisky. The sea salt brings out a little more sweetness in the drink, while the addition of walnut bitters will bring back memories of walnut and coffee cake. Finally, the burnt orange twist adds a touch of acidity to the drink, as well as complementing a similar flavour note in the whisky.

 

A Fairly Gentle Kick

  • 30ml Fair Café Liqueur
  • 20ml Ancho Reyes
  • Chile Liqueur
  • 2 dashes of Peychaud’s Aromatic Bitters
  • 120ml Dalston Cola
  • Orange twist
  • Ancho chilli

Build in an ice-filled glass and garnish with the orange and chilli.

The name of this cocktail makes it sound more potent than it is. In reality, it’s a delicious, long drink that’s inspired by the mantra “what grows together goes together”. The deep-roasted cocoa flavour of the Mexican coffee beans in Fair Café Liqueur balance perfectly the gently spicy and rich raisin flavours in the ancho chilli liqueur. Dalston Cola adds complexity, while the Peychaud’s bitters and orange twist bring the aroma to life.

 

Ever Bean to Dorset?

  • 25ml Conker Spirit Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur
  • 25ml Herradura
  • Reposado Tequila
  • 25ml Asterley Bros Dispense Amaro
  • Grapefruit twist

Stir with ice until chilled and garnish with the grapefruit.

This cocktail takes its inspiration from the bitter-sweet notes of a negroni (made with gin, vermouth rosso and Campari). Herradura Reposado is a wonderfully well-rounded, aged tequila, with vanilla, bitter chocolate and spiced notes that perfectly complement similar notes in Conker Spirit’s liqueur, including a surprise appearance by a touch of black pepper on the finish. Completing the trio of ingredients is the spritely Asterley Bros Dispense Amaro, which provides a cooling, almost menthol/clove-like finish. The grapefruit provides acidity to balance the cocktail.