When Coffee Meets Cocktails

Coffee cocktail

If you are an espresso lover and you like cocktails, the chances that you had an Espresso Martini are quite high. When it comes to other coffee flavoured drinks, most likely you’ll come across those laced with coffee liquor rather than with espresso. Coffee is pretty tricky to pair with alcohol to make it taste good and not loose the flavour, but once you get it right it can be a true sensation to your taste buds.

No secret that good espresso in one of the keys to success of espresso based drinks, but sometimes bars don’t have very good quality coffees or they don’t pay that much of attention to making it properly. However, when a highly reputable coffee shop decides to make coffee cocktails, you just know it may turn into something serious.

After having an informal chat with café No Sugar crowd and suggesting turning it into a coffee cocktail bar at night time I was jumping from happiness: not only they decided to go ahead with the idea, but I was honoured to be able to contribute to creating coffee drink menu and testing it out before the opening night.

One evening our group of coffee and cocktails enthusiasts consisting of No Sugar head barista Simonas, One Two bar mixologist Aurelijus and me teamed up and the experiments started. There was a unanimous agreement to focus on simplicity: no crazy ingredients, no whipped cream nor flavoured syrups. Espresso had to be used as a base for all the cocktails.

Ethiopian and Colombian coffees were available to work with. Ethiopian has higher level of acidity and citrusy notes that could easily become overpowering in combination with alcohol, so Colombian was chosen due to its naturally sweet flavour.

The first drink to master was the classics – Espresso Martini. As simple as it may sound in terms of ingredients, finding one that is perfectly balanced has always been a serious challenge to me. In fact, I could probably count on my one hand fingers, how many times I had a really good Espresso Martini.

Espresso Martini

Glasses started lining up on the bar filled with different variations of this drink: less coffee, more sugar syrup, less vodka, another splash of Kahlua – the proportions had to be perfected. Up until then I had been thinking that it has to be just a tiny bit of froth on the top – a millimetre or so, but I learnt that there can be up to 5 milimeters of it. When we all agreed that we found the right balance of flavour, we moved on to creating the next drink.

The suggestion was to come up with easy to drink dessert-like concoction. There were a few different combinations tested out – some better and some worse, until we settled on the one consisting of Dissarono almond liquor, Angostura bitters, cream and espresso. Dark ground chocolate was used as a garnish and the name of it came out naturally: we called it Lady Cappuccino.

When we had a classic cocktail and a girly cocktail, there was a turn for something with more of a character. My intuition was whispering to try Espresso Negroni. And boy, the intuition was right. While there were some hesitation with the first versions of other cocktails, this one received three ‘yes’ from the first try. Not only our experimenters’ crowd appreciated it, but it also became a hit among the coffee bar guests during the opening night.

I scribbled down the recipe in case you’ll get tempted to try making it yourself.

Espresso Negroni

In mixing glass or cocktail shaker filled with ice combine the ingredients. If you decide use a shaker, double strain after shaking it. Pour into chilled old fashioned glass with ice cubes. Smear the zest side of the orange peel all round the rim of the glass and then put it into the drink. Et voilà! A different version of Negroni for you to enjoy.

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Photo credits: Martyna Jovaišaitė

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