Coffee for Grown-Ups: Cocktails with a Kick

Dinner with friends traditionally features dessert, coffee and conversation. Increasingly, coffee is also a nightcap. As coffee drinkers are discovering, there’s no reason not to add a shot of liquor to your favorite coffee drink.

Coffee and spirits have always had a natural affinity for each other—it’s possible that caffeine might even offset alcohol, a depressant. You still get that little jolt of caffeine to get you through the rest of the evening, mellowed out with your favorite whiskey, cognac or cordial. Coffee cocktails are fast becoming the signature drink of choice.

 Coffee and Alcohol: A Brief History

Perhaps the most popular coffee cocktail is the Irish coffee (coffee and whiskey topped with lightly whipped heavy cream), invented in 1943 at Foynes Airport in Ireland—an enterprising chef decided to concoct a quick drink to brighten the mood of some passengers from a rerouted winter flight in a seaplane, and dropped a shot of whiskey in their coffees, with congratulatory results. But the Scandinavians have been mixing moonshine with coffee to create a drink called Karsk since the early 1800s. (This led to substituting vodka for moonshine, eventually creating what is now popularly known as Russian coffee.)

Friendly Flavors

The process of cupping (the practice of observing the flavors and aromas of coffee) uses many of the same flavor reference points as does mixing a cocktail: the goal is a balance of bitterness, sweet, sour and acidity. A coffee drinker is after the same overtones that many liquors or liqueurs provide: herbal (amaro), honey (mead or Drambuie), cocoa (Kahlua, Baileys, chocolate bitters), citrus or other fruit (apple brandy, Triple sec, Muscat liqueur) and spices of all kinds. With this kind of flavor overlap, it’s no wonder high quality coffee and cocktail ingredients are natural mixers.


Enjoy these classy, caffeinated cocktails!

World’s Best Dad


1 oz Laird’s Apple Brandy

0.5 oz Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth

0.25 oz Demerara Syrup

3 drops salt solution

Build all ingredients in Three Finger Porcelain Mug. Fill with freshly brewed coffee.

Shaken, Not Stirred


1 part Kahlua Mocha

1 1/2 parts rye whisky

1/2 part cold brewed coffee

1/2 part simple sugar

1 part whole milk

Slow shake and pour into a Collins glass. Top with seltzer.

Black Hole Sun

2 oz. bourbon

1/2 oz. cold-brew coffee

1/2 oz. simple syrup (1:1)

2 dashes orange bitters

1 dash Angostura bitters

1 (liberal) dash chocolate bitters

Build all ingredients in mixing glass. Stir with ice until chilled. Strain into old fashioned glass and garnish with lemon wheel floating in cocktail.

Bunny’s Toe (a take on the Original Irish Coffee)


1½ oz. aged rum

1/3 oz. Sambuca

1 barspoon Fernet-Branca

1 sugar cube


4 oz heavy whipping cream (combine with 1 oz. Irish cream to make Irish cream whipped cream, if desired)

Add rum, Sambuca, Fernet-Branca and sugar cube to a wine glass. Add coffee and top with Irish cream whipped cream.