The Cooper Spirits team began brainstorming options for a new Slow & Low innovation, and we all had a shared interest and love for coffee. I proposed the idea of the Coffee Old-Fashioned inspired by the greatest coffee cocktail, Café Brulot. The team was aligned behind the idea, but we knew that for it to work we needed a special coffee so we immediately reached out to our first choice, Intelligentsia, to see if they were interested in collaborating with us….and here we are now.
Café Brulot is a classic post-prandial cocktail with murky origins, that became popular in New Orleans in the 1890’s at the old-line Creole restaurants; Arnaud’s, Antoine’s, and Gallatoire’s, and they all still serve it to this day. My personal favorite versions are served at Gallatoire’s and Commander’s Palace.
Café Brulot is a bit of after dinner theatre where by the drink is compounded table-side, comprised of a mix of cognac or brandy, some places add orange liqueur, sugar, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, ¼ “ lemon and ¼ “ orange peel, a clove studded spiral orange peel from the whole orange, andFrench roast chicory coffee. The cognac, sugar, ¼ “ lemon and orange peels and spices are heated in a Brulot bowl (or chaffing dish) and then the heated mixture is lit on fire with a match. While the flames dance in the bowl, the server holds the clove studded spiral orange peel threaded through the tines of a long-handled fork and bastes the orange peel with the flaming liquor poured from a ladle. The oils in the peel spark and aromatize the mixture in the bowl below, while providing a pyrotechnic show with each ladle full poured down the spiral. The flaming bowl is extinguished by pouring in a pitcher of hot French roast coffee, and then served in demitasse cups.
I do like whiskey. I don’t drink as much as I used to and, it sounds made up but, I’ve really been drinking more Slow & Low than any other spirit over the last year. When I would drink whiskey more often, I pretty much didn’t discriminate. I never really drank Old-Fashioned’s before Slow & Low because I pretty much only would drink neat and then jumped all the way into cocktails and I was happily stuck in the Manhattan family. Historically, I have been a little skeptical about coffee and whiskey pairing well together. I have combined it with a spiced rum in the past but never looked into it much. I think the trouble with this is that it takes a very particular kind of coffee and format of that coffee for it to be able to stand up to something like whiskey. Whiskey also has the aid of alcohol to continue the development of flavor perception over a long period of time.That’s a very different experience than what we typically get with coffee. Of course, when combined the alcohol does the same thing for the coffee but then it’s being perceived in a whole new way. It’s an undertaking not to be taken lightly. It would be very easy to dismiss the coffee and relegate it to a sideshow. It’s quite incredible how the Coffee Old-Fashioned turned out to be in such perfect harmony.
Oh, wow. Honestly, a lot of this is actually about logistics and how that feeds into coffee quality. 1) We need really great coffee. 2) We need a lot of it. And 3) we need it year-round. Breaking this up into a blend will help establish a more reliable supply of coffee and still preserve a path for consistency. A blend can also be a way to add complexity to the coffee but it’s difficult to do well and if not done well, can also lead to something whose sum is actually less than either of its parts.Coffee is an agricultural product that typically harvests once a year and so the first thing we have to do is manage that seasonality. The Ethiopian coffee lasts a long time and so we can get away with that year-round. Otherwise, theGuatemalan coffee gets us through the northern hemisphere season and the Peruvian coffee gets us through the southern hemisphere season. We also have some countries where we only buy a lot of small lots from small producers. Using those coffees is likely to inhibit consistency in an offering like this as the lots would change too often. The producers for these coffees, in particular theGuatemala from Finca Santa Ana la Huerta and the Peru from Origin Coffee Lab not only produce a lot of coffee but it is milled more uniformly than usual.Getting the coffee beans to be more uniform in shape and size allows for a more specific roast approach than usual. We can focus flavor and foster a complimentary pairing with the Ethiopian coffee from METAD. Finally, all coffees have weaknesses, certainly some more than others, and some are more easily manifest than others. It’s the roasting and the brewing that will bring these to light. All of the coffees we have identified and paired here have also been chosen in part because any weakness they might have is totally diminished. Because of the milling we can avoid negative flavors in roasting and because of that we also keep them out when brewing. It’s like finding all the right stars and then forcing them into alignment to get coffee this good.
Slow & Low Coffee Old-Fashioned is Café Brulot updated through the lens of a rye whiskey old-fashioned, comprised of straight rye whiskey, Intelligentsia Cold Coffee, demerara cane sugar + raw honey, Angostura Bitters, and navel orange peel.
Both whiskey and coffee have flavors that are extremely complex and arises from numerous chemical, biological and physical influences of cultivation of the respective agriculture, geographical location, and production methods.
I think that provides a lot of entry points on both sides to find complementary pairings of whiskey and coffee.
I think it’s simply that they are both incredibly complex beverages and they both derive flavor from roasting. Well, that might be a stretch. I don’t know what you call it in whiskey but I’m pretty sure it’s not roasting. In whiskey, there are these specific barrels with specific woods, renowned coopers, and the barrels are charred. It’s probably best for me to leave this topic to Chad, but I’ll continue just for fun. This is all done in a particular way and the whiskey derives it’s flavor from how it interacts with that charred barrel. So, there is something about the flame causing these chemical reactions and then extracting those flavors in a controlled way that is in the center of the ven diagram.
Coffee Old-Fashioned is right on time at brunch, a post-prandial palate cleanser, or nightcap.
I think for me, it’s early in a long night. (That being said, I have had it at night just before bed and I didn’t have any trouble sleeping so that’s good.) I think there is something about the idea of coffee as a digestif that asks this drink to follow dinner...and I do think any kind of pick-me-up one might get from the coffee just invites more drinks and better conversation to follow.
“Success” by Iggy Pop….”I wanna hop like a frog!”
“Basic” by Sigrid (this is aSunday morning tune)
“Storm Warning” by Mac Rebennack (aka Dr. John)
“With Arms Outstretched” by Rilo Kiley (this is a Friends-at-the-house tune)
“Get Down With It” by Little Richard
“In Spite of Ourselves” by John Prine with Iris Dement (this is a family around the campfire tune)
It’s a bit like figure 8 auto racing… are you gonna hit the gas or the brakes when coming up to the cross?
For me, “fortune” here is not typical fortune. It’s not wealth and freedom from oppression. To be bold is togo against and beyond the status quo. It requires taking on substantial risk and deeply held beliefs to get one through. There is a type of fortune promised here. While it won’t always be material riches there will always be a sense purpose with this work. And what could be greater in life than knowing you found and carried out your purpose.
Ha, no. I’d say the one small thing they have in common is they make beverages. And the big thing they have in common is that they are both simultaneously front of house and back of house. The main difference is that bartenders mostly mix already prepared extractions. Baristas have to do a precise and precarious extraction of desirable soluble material on the fly. Bartenders have way more to memorize and do most of their unique recipe development once for a long time. Baristas have less to memorize and are using their sensory skills to do recipe development every day and throughout the day. A lot of overlap, but a lot of difference too.
Stirred to chill and dilute to just under perfect, then strained over a large clear ice cube and garnished with an orange twist expressed over the top of the drink.