Biting cold in November is no fun, but tequila sure is. If the national spirit of Mexico makes you think of warm sandy beaches and summertime margaritas, allow coffee to reconfigure your expectations.
The benefits of the caffeine bean are seemingly endless: It adds a a bitter roasted note to anything it touches, it gets you through a long day, and now scientists have even discovered that drinking coffee on the reg can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes. There’s never been a better time to add it to your cocktail than right now. You know, for your health.
Of course, dumping several dashes of Jameson into a cup o’ joe is a time-honored tradition — one that I would never dismiss. And you can get one hell of an Irish coffee in this city if you head down to the Dead Rabbit.
But there are far more inventive ways to bring coffee into the cocktail fold. I find the slightly vegetal, wooded notes of a fine reposado to mingle soulfully against the backdrop of a cleanly roasted java. Seemingly, coffee would simply overpower the booze. If mixed in proper proportion, however, they encourage each other to shine.
Surprisingly, there are not enough bars in the city serving tequila-based coffee cocktails. One notable exception is in Bushwick, where Montana’s Trailhouse whips up their Tail Dragger. The $10 drink combines agave spirit with cold-brew iced coffee and a dash of demerara. Served on the brunch menu, it’s a wicked fine way to kickstart the day.
Over in midtown, Middle Branch’s Mathew Resler has fashioned his own tipple of caffeinated agave. The Flat White Reviver melds reposado with coffee-infused Campari, vermouth and an absinthe cream float for a Central American spin on a Negroni. Infusing the traditional Italian bitter aperitif, Resler takes two tablespoons of Vittoria Italian Style Dark coffee grounds to one liter Campari for one hour, before finely straining all the granular residue.
As any high-end craftsman, he’s fairly particular about his ingredients. “Vittoria coffee has a beautiful Italian-style roast that pairs wonderfully with a reposado tequila as they share similar characteristics, full of caramel and chocolate,” says Resler.
If infusions seem daunting, remember: Both coffee and tequila are commonly available in the average household. It’s easy enough to experiment with more pedestrian DIY variations. I recommend a simple concoction called the Joelisco, which hardly requires an advanced degree in mixology:
Depending on how your day is going, take between one to two ounces of your favorite reposado (I use Partida) and add it to about five ounces of strong, black coffee — either cold-brewed or hot-. Add a dash of agave or even maple syrup, a smidgen of milk, and a light sprinkling of cinnamon to top it all off. If you’re feeling fancy, go ahead and garnish it with a cinnamon stick. Since you have so many lying around your kitchen cupboard.
Regardless of the temperature, the end result is exceptionally drinkable. An ever-so-slight sweetness is washed away by way of roast. And the slight spark of tequila binds with the cinnamon spice for an unexpected treat. Repeat as necessary.