|It's that time of year when you can see the shape of your breath but you can't feel your feet. It's when everything gets a little bit extra - your head gets a beanie, your beer gets darker and your food gets cooked more .... so what about your coffee? Here we look at the tastiest ways to fire up your coffee for winter.
Gin and tonic, sure. Rock and roll, of course. But alcohol to coffee, who thought of that?
The Italians, which itself is kooky considering how passionately they bang on about the exceptional quality of their own coffee. Well not according to one bloke who added a shot of grappa of to his espresso and, admiring how much better it was, called it a corretto. This in fact means 'corrected' - a coffee that's corrected with alcohol.
Traditionally, grappa was added to the coffee to spark it up a little (or disguise the fact that they were drinking alcohol) but now all sorts of liqueurs and spirits can be added.
What you choose to add is pretty much open slather and comes down to a combination of what you enjoy and what compliments the coffee. Georgina Downey, head of training at LaVazza, suggests that in order to make a smooth and flavoursome coffee and alcohol combo, you need to source flavours of alcohol that compliment the taste of the coffee. Not so hard.
Recommended to funk up any coffee are Cognac, whisky, ainese, Kahlua, Baileys, Frangelico or any tasty hazelnut or almond flavoured spirits. Depending on what sort of coffee you're making with the grog depends on how and when you add the ingredients but usually it's a shot of the alcohol followed by the coffee and the rest of the ingredients.
Not all coffee and alcohol combinations need to be mixed together. Another combination that stands it's ground is an espresso accompanied by, but not mixed into, a muscat or port. These two have the power to stand up against the gusto of the espresso while complimenting it's flavours at the same time.
But while guidelines help with most new ventures, a little travel off the beaten track won't hurt your winter coffee experience either, as Georgie discovered with two new tasting experiences she had on a recent trip to Tassie. One, a half a nip of butterscotch schnapps into a latte which added "a gentle sweetness and an extra hit of flavour". The other was a mocha (coffee and chocolate base) that had half a nip of black rum in the mix.
The combinations really are endless. So next time you need firing up, brew up a pot of your finest beans, line up all your favourite and not so favourite sprits and taste away. Couple of shots of this and you'll never start the day the old way again.
TRICKS FOR A TOP COFFEE AND GROG EXPERIENCE
Make sure you have a good coffee to begin with. This exercise is all about adding flavour to enhance what you already have, not about disguising a foul tasting brew that you're too tight to throw out. If you're making these at home, make the coffee properly (go back to our first issue for info on that one). If you're out, check out whose making the coffee and how they're doing it. Like finding the right pair of trainers, it's a bit of extra work but well worth it in the end.
You can heat the alcohol up very slightly if you want to ensure no heat from the coffee is lost when the alcohol is added. You can do this on the stove or, if you have a machine, you can add a bit of steam to fire it up a little. But careful, it only needs to be warmed very slightly.
How you add the cream to the Irish coffee is what will make or break you. The cream is supposed to float on the top - not sink, not dissolve and not stand tall like a meringue. Float. The trick is to use really softly whipped cream so that it floats on the top like plankton on a pond. One trick to get this right is to pour it over the back of a spoon.
A serve is a nip which by standards is 30 mls in most places. In Italy it's usually after you say 'when'.
When choosing your alcohol make sure you compliment the flavours.
Also choose flavours you know you like. If you don't like almonds don't add an almond based liqueur. Can't stand whisky? Don't add it to your coffee. Think about what you usually enjoy drinking, it'll make all the difference.
If you're not sure what you like, try them, all. Truly, it's the only way.
If you're adding syrups for flavour, try and source a good one. Again, choose flavours that will contrast the coffee. Things like Irish cream, caramel and French vanilla all go well. Avoid contrasting flavours like raspberry and kiwi fruit. Just 'cause it tastes good with ice cream doesn't mean it'll make a coffee taste better.
TRY THESE AT HOME
These first two are being served as we speak on Parisian sidewalks. And the last one, well, as long as you can get your cream to float, it's the Irish Coffee.
30 mls of vanilla syrup
30 mls of bacardi white rum
Some runny cream for floating, not mixing
Serve in an espresso glass
30 mls of sugarcane syrup
30 mls of Cointreau
Some runny cream to float on top
Serve it in a glass, add the ingredients in the order listed and you'll get a fabulous striping affect in the glass and a wonderful feeling in your belly.
1 teaspoon of brown sugar (this isn't optional - it's the way you make Irish Coffee)
A shot of Irish whiskey
Build the coffee on top
Top with cream as explained above
When you get this right, it's a top sensation. You'll get the feeling of cool cream on top, then the hot, sweet, whisky flavoured coffee seeping through. When it's good...