Designer coffees and the trendiest hot spot in your neighborhood notwithstanding: the key to a good cup of coffee is very subjective; and so is the choice in what to add to it when what you need is just a little more than the rich flavor and aroma of the precious bean itself. Coffee history has been well covered in the wikipedia site (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coffee) articles on coffee so I simply will not belabor that issue here. There are endless discussions of desirable flavors and perfect ways to elicit the best from the brew in magazines, on the web and even in some kitchens where tastes may differ enough to spark heated conversations so I won’t go into that either.
What I want on a grey day when I am tired, cranky and my fingers are aching from the cold is my favorite coffee with alcohol in it. So choose your favorite bean, either Arabica or Robusta, be sure it is roasted to perfection and ground to your specifications and make a measure of coffee that can be used while the aromatic flavanoids are still in the coffee. This is where we will start. With your own favorite coffee, just right taste, just right temperature.
The next step is also highly subjective. This involves a certain amount of sophistication perhaps but I have seen it done very handily by folks who think sophistication is something unspeakably racy that rich people do. Add your favorite alcohol to the coffee. Don’t just splash…well you can, and that has its advantages as well, but if you want consistent results measure the darn stuff cowboy. In case you don’t know where to start let me note for you that some alcohol seems to be made to pair with coffee; Amaretto, Crème de Cacao, and Rum come instantly to mind. Some are traditional in certain circles such as Irish whiskey with Coffee in what is known as (of course) Irish Coffee.
The effect we are looking for is one of energy units of heat from the temperature of the coffee, the kind of warmth that suffuses ones entire circulatory system from the alcohol, a comforting aroma, a jazz of extra energy from the caffeine, and if you are with companions a lively up tic in the conversation.
To get a novice started we recommend the following combinations:
1. Irish Coffee: add 1 ½ ounces of Irish whiskey to a cup of hot coffee and if you like foo foo stuff add a dollop of whipped cream on top
2. Caffe de Amaretto: add 1 ounce of Amaretto to a cup of hot coffee and add a dollop of whipped cream
3. Black Gold: (a truly festive drink) In a heated cup place 4 ounces hot coffee, ¼ ounce each of triple sec, Amaretto, Irish Cream liqueur, hazelnut liqueur, and a splash of cinnamon schnapps. Top with whipped cream sprinkled with ground cinnamon and chocolate shavings. You can add a cinnamon stick instead of the sprinkle of cinnamon.
These drinks are lovely and great for company.
When you come in half frozen and just need what you need without a lot of fuss, grab the coffee pot, fill your cup about ¾ full and splash a good ounce and a half of Ten High in it, add sugar and hunch up by the fire while you take your medicine. While this may not be the connoisseur’s dream of the perfect taste, it doesn’t need fussy measuring and fussier ingredients; it will do the job.
Back to the nice stuff now:
• Boston Caribbean Coffee: add 1 ounce Crème de Cacao (brown) and 1 ounce dark rum to hot coffee and sprinkle with cinnamon place in a hot cup that has had its rim dipped in fresh squeezed lime juice and then in sugar.
• Irish Crème: Just add an ounce of Irish Cream Liquer to hot coffee (one of my favorite drinks)
• Doublemint: 1 ounce spearmint schnapps, ½ ounce Crème de Menthe (green) in a cup of hot coffee, finish with a dollop of whipped crème and chocolate mint shavings
Ok now its time to discuss the difference good coffee can make in the taste of the drink. In order to get the best experience it is important that your coffee be your subjectively best variety, roast, and brew. The richness of the flavor is what will make the mix an outstanding drink. You can put any kind of alcohol in the coffee and if the best flavor was not there to begin with the liquor will not improve it.
Remember also that coffee does not keep you sober, nor sober you up when you have had too much alcohol. It just makes you a wide awake, and therefore more obnoxious and perhaps dangerous drunk. So toss your car keys way back under the bed or into the deep freeze or somewhere and drink responsibly. These drinks are to lift the burden of cold and dreary winter weather; don’t over do them but do enjoy them.