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Coffee Cocktails

Groupheaded Irish Coffee Coffee flavor in cocktails is nothing new. Classic recipes like Mexican and Irish Coffee are legendary. You also have coffee liqueur which shows up occasionally in recipes (one of our favorites is the Curfew cocktail), not to mention how easy it is to make an infusion. Drop a dozen beans into a bottle of vodka and in just a few days you have coffee vodka for a very interesting "martini". We happily admit to hosting more than one party with a creamy and sweet espresso cocktail on the menu! All playfulness aside, some readers know that we are actually pretty serious about coffee. We roast our own beans, pull shots of espresso at home, and we don't mind sharing our experience and knowledge with others. Ok, we are coffee snobs (this is the Pacific Northwest, after all) but we still get excited when new products come around that allow us to merge our interests. That's exactly what happened when we met Dan Bruner, creator of Grouphead Coffee LLC.

Dan is a fellow Portlander whose love of coffee goes way beyond our own—something we didn't know was possible. Recently, Dan started bottling and selling his fantastic espresso concentrate—a more flavorful and convenient alternative to cold-press. His method retains all of the delicious flavors you expect and want in a great cup of coffee. A true concentrate, most folks will enjoy it mixed 1 part Grouphead to 5 parts hot water. Yet, why stop there? A cup of coffee is one thing, but we wanted to see what we could do with the extract in cocktails.

Coffee LiqueurThe obvious starting point was to attempt an instant Irish Coffee which typically contains 4 ounces of hot java. Instead of measuring beans, grinding, filling our coffee maker with water and brewing a small pot of coffee for just one drink, we simply put on a kettle of hot water. Within minutes, and using only two-thirds of an ounce of Grouphead concentrate, we were sipping a classic Irish Coffee (here's the recipe, just substitute 5:1 hot water and concentrate for the coffee). Considering how easy this was, we should add it to the house menu and start offering it to guests form now on.

Our next idea was to see if we could quickly whip up a small batch of coffee liqueur. Sure enough, with some neutral spirits and brown sugar, we're ready to make the Curfew again! Flavor-wise, this a la minute liqueur rivals any of the craft coffee cordials we have tasted, and we are blown away by how delicious it is served neat.

Instant Coffee Liqueur
1 oz Grouphead Stacked Espresso Concentrate
1 oz water
1 oz (volume) brown sugar
1 oz neutral spirits

Mix the concentrate and water with brown sugar until dissolved. Add spirits. Seal in a bottle. Scale as desired.

Homemade cocktail ingredients don't get much easier than this, folks—it's all equal proportions! We used 190-proof Everclear for a potent and flavorful result. We like the strong bite from the alcohol but we could have gotten away with something much lower proof (vodka). Many commercial coffee liqueurs have a spiced character, so if that tickles your fancy, add a dash of vanilla extract or your favorite bitters. Scale this recipe however you like, or make just a little when you need it. We recommend making at least this much because it is so good you will want to sip a little all by itself.

With confidence and momentum, we dug up a pair of cocktail recipes published by Imbibe magazine last year. Both of these drinks are from the Black Hole Coffee House in Houston. They call for cold-press coffee which is still a concentrate, but not as strong—so we mixed Grouphead with water 50/50. The first drink is an Old Fashioned riff called the Black Hole Sun by Bryan Hutchinson.

Black Hole SunBlack Hole Sun (adapted)
2 oz bourbon
.25 oz Grouphead Stacked Espresso Concentrate
.25 oz water
.5 oz simple syrup (1:1)
2 dashes orange bitters
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 big dash chocolate bitters

Stir with ice in a mixing glass until chilled. Strain into a chilled rocks glass and garnish with a lemon wheel.

A cocktail like this one is definitely spirit-driven, and any Old Fashioned tends to be on the sweeter side. The coffee doesn't dominate but instead adds heaps of complexity with the melange of bitters. We will definitely try making this again when we can share it with guests. Next up is a drink called the Wormhole—we aren't sure why—but when we saw the ingredients we had to try it.

Wormhole (adapted)
1.5 oz Brancamenta
.5 oz Grouphead Stacked Espresso Concentrate
.5 oz water
.25 oz lime juice
Sparkling water

Build in a Collins glass, add ice and top with sparkling water. Garnish with a sprig of mint.

WormholeThe Wormhole cocktail by Ryan Perry really surprised us. First of all, we need more recipes with Brancamenta. Who knew it would work with coffee, and lime juice of all things? Brancamenta is sweeter and not as bitter as regular Fernet-Branca, and of course it has the minty-fresh flavor that's just delicious with coffee. The lime and the prickly carbonation give this drink just enough acidity to make it mouthwateringly good. The coffee adds a nice finish to an otherwise refreshing and complex highball.

We are really only scratching the surface with coffee drinks, but we've made a good case for using Grouphead concentrate in cocktails. Making a pot of coffee can be inconvenient when you are focused on cold cocktails. Even if you aren't a coffee drinker, Grouphead fits nicely alongside syrups and tinctures. The high concentration makes a little go a long way. We know there is a Manhattan riff or two out there, so start experimenting and let us know what you what you come up with.



Here's a delicious drink to help you start thinking about summer. It's relatively easy to make and it's a classic, first published in The Bar-Tender's Guide by "Professor" Jerry Thomas way back in 1862. That happens to be the first cocktail book ever published, so we are talking about an old cocktail from a bygone era. Fortunately, the ingredients aren't.

This is a rum drink, and a stiff one at that. It requires a bit of raspberry syrup (or a bit more if it suits you). Making raspberry syrup is a small challenge but definitely worth the effort, and once you have it you can easily make a handful of tasty beverages, not to mention a fantastic sundae! To make raspberry syrup, you need raspberry juice and sugar. The best method is to squeeze fresh raspberries and use the juice to make a simple syrup. Just measure your juice

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Elixir de Amontillado

Elixir de Amontillado

The plain old Champagne Cocktail is a classic from a bygone era that has remained unchanged since it was invented in the 1800's. Back then, all you did was drop a sugar cube into a flute, douse it with a few dashes of bitters, add bubbly and maybe garnish with a piece of lemon peel. There's not much to it. The sugar cube generates bubbles as it dissolves, more or less carrying the scent and flavor of the bitters throughout. You would be forgiven if you decided not to sacrifice good sparkling wine to this process. Even if it sounds exciting, you might not notice the effect which is probably why you don't see anyone drinking these. At some point, folks started adding other ingredients to give sparkling cocktails a bit more interest. For example, the Casino Cocktail includes a cognac float, and the Kir Royale skips the sugar

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Never Wash Glassware Again

Old Fashioned "mug"

One of the joys of going out for drinks at a bar is that you don't have to do any of the work. Yes, we have been writing for years about how anyone can make fantastic cocktails at home, but sometimes you don't want to think about the details. You want to let a professional take care of you. Sure, using the proper tools and techniques you can make your own delicious beverages, and over the years we have documented plenty of great ideas. Some of them might have seemed foolish or unorthodox at the time, but strokes of brilliance rarely feel commonplace. This year, we've come up with a solution to a problem that plagues every aspiring mixologist: washing glassware.

It's a recurring problem that never goes away: cleanup is something you cannot avoid. Maybe that splash of lime isn't hurting anybody, and the egg white on the

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Gangs Of New York

Gangs of New York

It's hard not to love the Whiskey Sour with all of its many variations. Even if you don't think of yourself as a whiskey drinker you can usually find something you like in this category. You can go for the classic preparation with egg white, something a bit more modern like a Rattlesnake variant, a wonderful Whiskey Smash, or even the best Amaretto Sour in the world! But with everyone's favorite Irish holiday just around the corner, we decided to explore a little history and see if we could find a version that would be appropriate for March. The Gangs of New York cocktail by Sandy Levine of The Oakland Art Novelty Company in Ferndale, Michigan is the perfect solution.

The Oakland is an elegant speakeasy in the Detroit area often considered the best cocktail spot in the city. So, why then, is this whiskey

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Beretta's Rattlesnake


A sour cocktail is perhaps the most versatile framework when it comes to mixed drinks. It is both accessible and interesting, combining the flavors of any spirit with acid from fresh citrus while balancing that with some form of sugar. The sour formula is also flexible and forgiving, allowing different ingredients to successfully change the cocktail—sometimes subtly, but often with dramatic effect. For example, the Bee's Knees cocktail would be a plain gin sour (not really a popular choice) if not for the honey syrup. By just using honey instead of simple sugar syrup, it achieves an unexpected depth of character that mingles in unpredictable ways with the gin making it a memorable favorite.

Any base spirit works as a sour. Exploring the possibilities will lead you into categories like the Daiquiri, Sidecar, Margarita and the list goes on and on as you swap sweeteners or

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Pama Frost

Pama Frost Detail

Happy New Year!

Over the years we have done plenty of experiments with ingredients, often recommending to our readers that it's okay to adopt a playful attitude of trial and error when it comes to recipes. Sometimes it's a result of substitutions for not having the right ingredients, but more often it comes down to personal taste. There are recipes that call for very specific proportions, but most of the time it makes more sense to taste the result and adjust as necessary. For instance, adjustments are almost always expected when balancing sweet and sour. One never knows how much acid is present in a volume of citrus juice, and personal taste can affect what you consider "balanced". We tend to lean toward the sour side, but we understand that some recipes are meant to be sweet. Time and experience can transform your idea of a good cocktail.

Today, we

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