There are few relationships more symbiotic than coffee and alcohol. As does the sun come up each morning, so must it go down each night. Thus, the second-annual Coffee Cocktail Mash-Up bellies up to the bar this Sunday, June 24, in NYC. The event is a rare opportunity to celebrate the marriage of coffee and booze, and in this case, coffee's meant to be the couple's better half.
"Bartenders are really intrigued by coffee, I think," says Cora Lambert, former manager at the now-defunct RBC NYC, mixologist, and also one of the "'Participating Personalities" in the "Coffee: The Missing Ingredient" panel at July's "Tales of the Cocktail" conference in New Orleans. Lambert selected five barista-bartender pairs from New York to create coffee-based cocktails that truly rise above the sum of their parts.
"The way we approached it was for everyone to choose a coffee and build a drink around it," said Lambert. "It introduces bartenders to the idea of coffee as a really seasonal ingredient."
The team lineup is as follows:
Jane Danger (Jane's Sweet Buns) and Park Brannen (Handsome Coffee Roasters)
John deBary (PDT) and Sam Penix (Everyman Espresso)
Meaghan Doorman (Raines Law Room) and Teresa von Fuchs (Dallis Bros. Coffee)
Danny Gil (Weather Up) and Mike Jones (Third Rail Coffee)
Brad Farran (Clover Club) and Alex Bernson (Joe Coffee)
Expect to see a wide range of interpretations of the theme, from traditional cocktails with a coffee slant to more playful infusions (coffee ice cubes were mumbled about) that keep the theme true to the coffee mandate. After all, the drink has to taste like coffee, but in a really good way. (This is harder to do than it sounds like, even if you're getting people tipsy.)
Last year's winners, repeat entrants Park Brannen and Jane Danger, based their drink on a coffee concentrate of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe steeped overnight in a Toddy cold brewer. Their drink, The Italian Royal Family Punch, used rum, red wine sorbet, Zucca, and passionfruit syrup to accentuate the fruity notes inherent in the coffee itself.
Coffees on the menu this year include Dallis Bros. Colombia Cerro del Reyez, which Teresa von Fuchs hopes to highlight the sweet cherry complexity of. "I don't want the particulars of the coffee to get washed out in the concoction," she warns. One of her opponents, Mike Jones, is bringing Stumptown's Ethiopia Duromina to the table. He hopes his iced Aeropress implementation of the coffee emphasizes its sweet and floral notes, and he and Gil plan to use spirits that make its nectarine and jasmine overtones flourish.
For those who'd like to join the marriage of night-and-day by sampling some innovative coffee-based drinks, Sunday's competition is open to the public (with a ticket fee to help raise funds for the curators' journey to continue preaching the coffee-can-actually-be-good-in-a-cocktail gospel in New Orleans).
The Coffee Cocktail Mash-Up takes place Sunday, June 24 at 5:00pm at Weather Up, Tribeca, 159 Duane Street, New York NY 10013. Tickets for the event are $20 and include a coffee-based cocktail. More information is available here.
About the author: Liz Clayton drinks, photographs and writes about coffee and tea all over the world, though she pretends to live in Brooklyn, New York. She is currently compiling photographs of the best coffee in the world to be published by Presspop later this year.