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A Little Taste of the Emerald Isle

Posted by Reese on 2009-03-22 @ 09:35am

After reading my post about my dislike of coffee you may have come ot the conclusion that I also don’t like this week’s cocktail, Irish Coffee.  You would, however, be incorrect.  There are enough add-ons in this drink that the classic cup of coffee morphs to become something bigger and, I’d argue, better.

Irish Coffee

I’m going to take a slightly different approach to the wrap up this week.  I found in looking at recipes that they’re all basically the same when you get right down to it.  So, based on that knowledge, I stuck with the Joy of Mixology recipe all week and focused instead on each individual component.  I’ll get the ball rolling with the ingredient I know the least about.

Coffee

This is the key component of the Irish Coffee and as such you want to choose a coffee you’re going to enjoy.  For the record I’ve been using Silver Canyon Grand Cafe Decaf this week and found it to be very good.  Although my experience with coffees is a bit limited.  I think the old adage that applies to cooking with wine, “Always cook with a wine you’d drink on its own”, could also apply here.  You should definitely pick a coffee you’d drink on its own, but I’d also suggest you splurge on a really nice roast for this drink.  The additional flavor is really going to make this drink shine.

Whiskey

As for the spirit the same general principle holds true.  Pick a whiskey that you know you enjoy.  However, I’d say don’t spend the extra money on an aged Irish whiskey.  The additional flavor components will be nearly wiped out by the coffee.  For me I’ve been using Jameson’s that was left over from when I made Irish Cream and found that it worked perfectly.

Sweetener

There are a ton of possible sweetening options for this drink, but I focused on the classic and most readily available, simple syrup and granular sugar.  Regan suggests using simple syrup as it mixes in much better.  I completely agree and were I mixing these up behind a bar that is certainly the option I’d choose as it brings the drink together much quicker.  However, what I don’t like about this option is that you’re choosing the level of sweetness for the imbiber.  My preferred method for mixing these at home is to serve sugar on the side and let the person consuming the drink add however much, or little, they prefer.

Regan also suggests using demerara syrup to increase the depth of flavor of the drink.  I tried both white sugar and demerara in both granular and syrup forms and can say he’s definitely right.  Although the added flavor is subtle it is definitely present and really compliments the whiskey flavors.  If you don’t have demerara sugar you could also try turbinado.  That said, special sugar is definitely not an absolute requirement.  Your drink will turn out great with just plain white sugar as well.

Cream

It’s very tempting to simply buy a can of whipped cream and use that, but I don’t think it gives the result you’re looking for.  Canned whipped cream introduces too much air and as a result it’s much more difficult to mix in to the finished drink.  Instead I’d suggest getting a pint of heavy cream and lightly whipping it until it’s the consistency of shampoo (bad analogy, I know, but I couldn’t think of a better one).  Basically you want the cream thickened to the point where it hasn’t reached soft peaks yet and still flow when you tip the container.  I’d also suggest adding a small amount of sweetener to the cream as you whip it.  That way you can add a little more cream than you would think is necessary and your guest can leave a bit on top to enjoy while sipping the drink.

So there you have it.  I’ve really enjoyed the Irish Coffee this week.  The flavor of the whiskey is still present although it’s playing a supporting role to the coffee.  The cream and sugar tame the strong flavor of the coffee somewhat which made it much more palatable for me.  The result is a drink that is truly more than the sum of its parts.  And, overall, I will definitely be drinking this cocktail again.  I think it would be perfect for a cold winter afternoon.  Although, it’s been in the 70s here all week and the drink was still damn good.