Baby, it’s cold outside. As winter grabs hold and your customers are forced to contend with howling Arctic winds and frostbitten extremities, crank up the heat with warm-spirited drink specialties. Dust off the coffee grinder because your clientele soon will be knocking on your bar looking for hot bracers to invigorate their flagging constitutions.
Creating delicious coffee-based signature drinks need not be a complicated process. To begin with, there is a vast array of liquors and liqueurs that work well in coffee. Brandy, rum and whiskey are natural complements to coffee, as are Kahlúa and Tia Maria, a Jamaican rum-based liqueur flavored with Blue Mountain coffee beans. Brands such as Café Lolita or Copa de Ora also are equal to the task.
While there are scores of fabulous coffee-based drink recipes, several stand-out as absolutely indispensable. The Keoki Coffee is an enduring classic, and with good reason. It’s made with equal parts of Kahlúa, brandy, creme de cacao and hot coffee, a blend of ingredients that marry beautifully with the robust flavor of coffee. The Irish Coffee is another hot classic made with a touch of sugar, Irish whiskey, coffee and whipped cream. Also falling on the incomparable end of the spectrum are the Caribbean Dream, a drink featuring Myers’s Jamaican rum, creme de banana, creme de cacao and coffee, and the Calypso Coffee (a.k.a. the Spanish Coffee), a delicious blend of light rum, Tia Maria and coffee.
Two piping hot crowd-pleasers are the Bay Area Garter, a blend of Kahlúa, Godiva chocolate liqueur, Frangelico, a drizzle of Hershey’s syrup and coffee, and the Peter Prescription, a lavish combination of Tia Maria, Grand Marnier, a splash of Chambord and Myers’s rum topped with freshly brewed coffee.
One of the more alluring offerings is the Montego Bay, a savory blend of hot coffee, Tia Maria, Myers’s rum and creme de banana. Another popular favorite is the Aspen Coffee, a blend of Bailey’s, Kahlúa and Frangelico. Consider also the Café Kingston and Millionaire’s Coffee. Both feature a superb combination of rich, robust coffee and a small slew of liqueurs.
There has yet to be a winter chill that can penetrate the bracing fortitude of the Northern Lights, a hardy libation with origins in the Great Northwest. The heart and backbone of this drink is Yukon Jack, the 100 proof Canadian liqueur, a product created to ward off the inhospitable northern nights.
Warding off winter doldrums is also effortless with the warmth and insulation of such fabulous concoctions as the Tight Sweater (Frangelico, Kahlúa, Di Saronno Amaretto, Bailey’s and coffee), 38th Parallel (Chambord, Bailey’s, creme de cacao, brandy and coffee), Royal Street Cafe (Kahlúa, Di Saronno Amaretto, nutmeg and coffee) and Abbey Road (Chambord, Di Saronno Amaretto, Kahlúa and coffee).
Sidebar: Brewing World-Class Coffee
As the largest coffee-consuming nation in the world, we Americans can differentiate between a great cup of Joe and a mug of acrid, bitter swill. The finest, most exclusive coffee beans will not salvage a badly made cup of coffee. Take expensive coffee beans and grind them too course or too fine for your machine, and the result will be disappointing. Similar disasters can result from improperly storing beans and ill-advised brewing techniques.
No coffee lover need suffer through a miserable cup of Joe. A few carefully heeded words of advice can mean the difference between a luxurious cup of heaven or a bitter, acidic mess.
An important aspect of serving a great cup of coffee is to start with freshly roasted beans. Coffee beans quickly lose their lively aroma and robust flavor. Whole beans maintain their freshness better than ground coffee, so grinding them just before brewing is best. Do not store coffee — especially ground coffee — in a refrigerator. The ambient moisture will rob coffee of its freshness. Even stored in a sealed container, coffee is susceptible to absorbing any food odors present in a refrigerator. Although the practice has its detractors, storing coffee in a freezer is a far better alternative.
To best appreciate the character of coffee, the best advice is to grind the beans just prior to brewing. If the grind is too fine, the water will extract an excessive amount of oil and flavors from the coffee. Likewise, the finely ground coffee will clog the filter and cause minute particles of coffee to make their way to the finished cup. An excessively course grind allows the hot water to rapidly flow through. This will cause under-extraction and result in a bitter or flavorless cup of coffee. The method of brewing ultimately dictates the type of grind used. The process of making Espresso requires that the beans be finely ground. Nearly all of the other methods used to brew coffee rely on a slower extraction. Most machines require a moderately coarse ground.
The coffee you brew can be no better than the water you use. Many tap waters are loaded with alkalines and minerals that adversely react with the essential oils in the coffee beans. The phosphates in softened water react even worse with the coffee. Filtered drinking water, or even better, naturally balanced spring water is optimal.
Proper Water Temperature
The water temperature once the brewing cycle has commenced should ideally be between 195EF and 205EF. Weak or older equipment often insufficiently heats all of the water, resulting in under-extraction and weak, bitter coffee. On the other end of the scale, never pour boiling water directly over the coffee. Always wait a few moments before using boiling water taken directly off the burner.
Most methods of brewing require that ground coffee be placed in either a paper or gold-plated filter. There are advantages to both. Paper filters are disposable and convenient. They are also effective at preventing solids from entering the coffee, although they filter out more of the desirable oils and colloids, the minute solids that give the brew its body and mouthfeel.
Gold-plated filters, on the other hand, allow more of the all-important oils and colloids to pass through to the finished brew. They are quite effective at filtering out solids, durable and moderately priced. Their chief drawback seems to be that one is left with a filter full of messy coffee grounds to deal with.
Using the Proper Measurements
In coffee parlance, a scoop of ground coffee is considered to be two teaspoons. How much coffee you use is obviously a huge factor in determining the quality of the finished product. As a general rule, two scoops of ground coffee and 8 ounces of water will yield a 6-ounce cup of coffee. This basic proportion can be adjusted slightly based on personal preference.
Keeping Brewed Coffee Hot
Prolonged exposure to direct heat will rapidly turn a pot of brewed coffee bitter. This naturally raises the question: Why do nearly all coffee makers come equipped with electric burners upon which the pot is meant to rest for extended periods of time? After all, every passing minute that the coffee sits on a burner, a chain of unwanted chemical reactions will continue to destroy and vaporize every quality about coffee that is desirable. While there appears to be no readily apparent explanation, the best advice is to immediately take the coffee off the burner as quickly as is convenient.
Life Expectancy of Brewed Coffee
If you’ve ever drunk a cup of old, stale coffee, you’ll agree that freshness matters. Serve coffee immediately after the brewing process has stopped. Conventional wisdom suggests that the optimum life expectancy of brewed coffee is between 20 to 40 minutes, after which it is best discarded.
Keeping Coffee Equipment Clean
The equipment you use to brew coffee should be cleaned regularly. Mineral buildup in the machine can diminish the effectiveness of the equipment, as well as taint the brewing process. Coffee contains oils and solids that will remain in the machine, adversely affecting the next pot of coffee.