Caffeine or booze? With coffee cocktails, you don’t have to choose. Previously, these two beverages were reserved for opposite ends of the day. Caffeine to wake up in the morning and alcohol to wind down at night. Caffeinated cocktails combine the two favorite substances for a beverage that’s perfect at any time of day. Watch any bartender or barista work, and it makes sense that these two would come together: coffee and spirits mix seamlessly to make a sweet, bitter, and complex beverage that’s perfect for brunch, a pick-me-up before going out or a relaxing after-dinner digestif.
The original coffee cocktail was the Irish Coffee, created during World War II in Ireland. Chef Joe Sheridan at the Foynes Airport decided to make a drink to cheer up weary travelers whose flight had been grounded due to a storm. The drink later caught on at the Shannon airport, where many a passenger savored the warm, velvety coffee cocktail.
After the war, the Irish Coffee was brought to the US, but bartenders struggled to get the same results. It wasn’t until bartender Jack Koeppler from San Francisco traveled to Ireland and learned directly from Joe Sheridan that he got the Irish Coffee recipe right. Today, the Irish Coffee is a staple and has inspired a range of other caffeinated cocktail recipes.
These modern takes call for different types of coffee, like a perfectly pulled shot of espresso, a standard cup of joe, or a smooth and sultry cold brew. Whatever the ingredients, coffee cocktails take the best from both coffee and cocktails and combine them to form a luscious drink that will fuel you from the afternoon through the night.
1. Italian Espresso Martini
Velvety rich and lightly botanical, the Italian Espresso Martini makes a delicious nightcap. It’s made with chilled espresso, Averna Amaro, and Kahlúa for an herbal, bittersweet take on the classic coffee-based cocktail, the Espresso Martini.
The Roman Holiday was originally made on a rooftop bar in Chicago, and the complex mix of Amaro Meletti, Campari, cold-brew coffee, pineapple juice, lime juice, demerara syrup, and salt tastes both tropically sweet and invitingly bitter at the same time. Like most caffeinated cocktails, the coffee lends a rich, velvety finish to every sip.
Strong, warm, and decadent, Mexican Coffee makes for a delicious after-dinner digestif, nightcap, or an enticing après-ski beverage. Similar to the classic Irish Coffee, the Mexican Coffee is made with coffee liqueur, tequila instead of whiskey, and coffee and topped with whipped cream.
The cocktail for cold brew and mezcal lovers, the Oaxacan Tail, was originally created for brunch, but the refreshing mix of amaro, mezcal, tequila, cold brew and chocolate mole bitters is good at any time of day. You can make the caffeinated cocktail milder with decaffeinated cold-brew and/or top it with cream to complement the beverage’s intensely rich flavors.
Irish Coffee is the original coffee-based cocktail, created on a cold rainy night in an Irish airport in the 1940s. The drink’s popularity quickly spread as people enjoyed the deep flavor of the coffee, the sweetness from the brown sugar, the warmth from the whiskey and the velvety mouthfeel from the cream. It was traditionally served to travelers after a long day.
Rich, creamy, and herbal, the Prairie Buzz is for those who love their caffeine. The heavily caffeinated cold brew mixes with whiskey, sweet vermouth, amaretto, heavy cream, and cinnamon syrup for a complexly sweet and spiced drink. For those looking to tone down the caffeine, decaffeinated cold brew coffee can be substituted.
The classic espresso martini can be found on many a menu, the vodka, coffee liqueur, and espresso make for a rich and indulgent cocktail that is deceptively easy to drink. The cold caffeinated alcoholic beverage has earned its place as a modern classic and is therefore a popular evening pick-me-up.
In this coffee cocktail, Frangelico, a hazelnut liqueur, is combined with Irish cream, espresso, and milk, creates this decadent coffee-based cocktail. Frangelico is a welcome addition that adds cocoa and vanilla notes with a subtle botanical flair to the caffeinated beverage, which can be enjoyed either hot or cold.