This month’s edition of Mixology Monday comes to us from that fine new magazine, Imbibe, whose editors have chosen the theme winter warmers, in keeping with the issue on the stands right now.
My contribution isn’t particularly original, but it’s a drink I’ve wanted to try at home for a while now: Irish coffee. Jen and I wanted something yummy to go with the ham-and-cheese baked eggs she made for brunch, and Irish coffee seemed like a good pairing.
Imbibe did a piece on this drink in the previous issue–the holiday issue–and although I referred to that feature while prepping the drink, I also consulted other sources to try to get the technique down.
Obviously, it’s not difficult. Irish coffee depends only a little on your technique–mainly layering the cream on top in the right way–and more on the quality of the ingredients. If you have good coffee, whiskey, sugar, and cream, you’ll make a yummy Irish coffee even if you flub the technique. It might not be best in show, but it’ll still taste great.
So, let’s start with the coffee. Pretty much every mixer who loves coffee recommends using a French press to make the joe. Luckily for us, we have one. In a link I can no longer find, one writer recommends choosing a low-acid variety. I don’t remember the rationale (since I can’t find the link), but it made sense to me at the time.
More importantly, perhaps, the bartender H. Joseph Ehrmann prefers a Vienna roast, saying it pairs well with the characteristics of Irish whiskey. Our grocery-delivery service, FreshDirect, offers a nice variety of organic, fair trade, and estate coffees, so I had a lot of options to choose from. So in the end, I chose an organic Sumatran, in a Viennese roast. Tasty on its own, strongly flavored but with mild acidity, I think it was not only a good choice for the Irish coffee, but also a great choice for an everyday brew.
The cream was from Ronnybrook Farm Dairy, a small producer in upstate New York. For the sugar, I used Demerara, for the rich flavor it imparts.
With all the care I put into choosing the coffee, cream, and sugar, I’m almost ashamed to admit I waited to the last minute to get the whiskey. The liquor store I went to had only one bottling of Irish whiskey–Jameson’s.
I had previously never liked Jameson’s, although it’s been years since I’ve had it, so I can’t explain why I didn’t like it. In part I think I had always compared it to the only other whiskey I had enjoyed to date–namely bourbon. And if you like that once-distilled spirit from the Bluegrass State, I guess it is hard to adjust to a dram of smooth thrice-distilled “uisce beatha.”
But I had a small glass of it on ice last night and was surprised by how much I actually enjoyed its sweetness and vanilla notes, which I think melded well with the cream and sugar in the coffee. I’m going to want to experiment (soon!) with other Irish whiskeys, but I have to say, I really liked the Jameson’s in this.
I had forgotten how much I love Irish coffee, but having remembered, I’m happy to have another drink in my repertoire.