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Buzzy Booze

February 17, 2012

Liqueurs are delightful, but they have a nasty way of really cluttering up your life. Either they turn out to be really special, something like Chartreuse which you sip on rare occasions and marvel at the majestic field of herbs the monks have managed to squeeze into a bottle. Or they are a critical element in a cocktail that you eventually turn away from, and sit on your shelf untouched and unloved for countless months.

That’s the tragedy of my Drambuie. The Domaine de Canton I still use at a rate of about a tablespoon per week, at most.

If you told me that I really should start making my own liqueurs, I’d tell you to take a flying leap. There are some amazing bottles on the market, that one would be hard pressed to replicate. Luxardo’s maraschino comes readily to mind. It’s also one of those things I love, but one I continue to never buy given how little of the stuff I actually am called on to use in practice. But a splash is critical to making a great daiquiri.

However if you are an astute reader, and you happen to know I’m sitting on a large bottle of vodka and a stash of good coffee beans, then you might be able to grab my attention. Especially if you call into service my trusty burr grinder and a few other of my favorite tools.

This is what James did almost a month ago in his comment about my experiment with the Moscow Mule. For the record, I still have yet to make the next batch of grenadine. And you know what? After making a coffee infusion via the James method, I may never get around to it.

One of the things I loved about this technique was its specificity. James wrote:

Grind 30g of beans as you would for French press using your trusty burr grinder. Then, steep the coffee in ~250mL of vodka for about an hour. Finish by filtering through a coffee filter or do the whole thing in your French press and then plunge…Blows things like Kahlua and VanGogh Espresso Vodka out of the water.

Generally, infusions take time, and I’m not a terribly patient man. They also often require a large quantity of a substance to infuse. This technique solved for all these issues.

30g of beans is just about what I use to make a cup of good coffee in the afternoons. Not all of the grinds make it into the cone filter for the pourover as they are more akin to dust. So I grind 30g of beans to net 28g for my pourover. But this is all beside the point.

I followed the instructions above fastidiously. Actually, I made this infusion in the French press and then ran it through a coffee filter to take out all the sediment. The process couldn’t have been simpler. And when it was done, I was left with a deeply aromatic coffee vodka. It smelled incredible. Regrettably, it tasted a bit burnt. However, I attribute this to the beans, and am looking forward to trying this again with a significantly lighter roast, because the essence of the coffee makes it through remarkably well.

I’d probably drink it faster if I weren’t so concerned about drinking it late at night.

You chemists may tell me that caffeine isn’t alcohol-soluble or something. Although maybe it is. Maybe I’m just psychosomatic or perhaps I really do pick up a buzz on the stuff. But I do find it to be invigorating.

Primarily I’ve been using this infusion as a way to darken up and add a greater roasted and bitter complexity to my old fashioned cocktails. So that’s two cubes of sugar (an extra one to compensate for the bitterness) muddled with a splash of coffee vodka and Angostura orange bitters (to brighten up all that darkness), that are then drowned with a heavy pour of bourbon and served with a little bit of ice.

I had really hoped that since this recipe only made 250mL of the stuff I would soon be making another batch with a more medium roast of coffee. But that has still yet to happen. The small bottle of infusion is far from empty. This is what happens when you use a spirit by the spoonful.

Regardless, I’ve now been bitten by the infusing bug. And if I’m not too careful, I may even take on the sweet milk liqueur project recently completed by Angelos Tzelepis. Simply because it looks amazing. And I’m sure all that curdled milk will horrify my children.

But I may scale down the recipe to just one cup.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. February 17, 2012 11:30 am

    “Generally, infusions take time, and I’m not a terribly patient man.”
    Could not agree more. I can empathize with the desire to make some infusions and/or liqueurs of my own, but am smited by the fist of apathy. It makes me just go and buy a cheap bottle rather than spend an entire weekend (and triple the cost) constructing my own specialty flavor, the exceptions being “easier” things like grenadine.

    That said, of course now I share in your other problem, and have way too many miscellaneous bottles of mostly-full liqueurs and mixers taking up valuable shelf space on my bar.

  2. February 17, 2012 11:33 am

    Wow, that sounds amazing! Looking forward to trying it.

  3. February 17, 2012 12:02 pm

    I will absolutely try this, because Van Gogh Espresso vodka is one of my favorite things. I can’t even keep it around the house because it goes too quickly.

    I am truly enjoying the milk liqueur, as well as the Stoli Doli and the vanilla-chocolate vodka I made that same session (

    I’m working on a better filtering rig, so I can make a larger batch.

  4. February 17, 2012 12:16 pm

    I could drink this at 10AM and not feel guilty, right?

  5. James permalink
    February 17, 2012 1:33 pm

    Thanks for the mention and for giving the recipe a shot. I know exactly what you are talking about with the slightly burnt/bitter taste and I think there are a few quick and easy fixes. First, your idea to use a lighter roast will help alot, I know you are fond of Cafe Vero and they roast the best beans for espresso in the area but, generally I find all of their roasts are a little dark, especially for brewed coffee. I remember the Daily Grind having a lighter roasted, fruity Yirgacheffe that would work really well for this if you want to get something fresh and local. Second, the extraction of bitter-tasting components is generally slower than the nice aromatic ones so grinding a little finer and decreasing contact time might help but might give you a little less flavor depth. Finally, unfortunately for you, caffeine is really soluble in a ~40% ethanol solution so just about every molecule should be out of the coffee in an hour, I suggest drinking more coffee to increase your caffeine tolerance.

    I really like the way this infusion comes out and it would be really fun to play with alot of different coffees, grinds, and extraction times but, that would probably make for a pretty rough/sloppy night of testing. The next experiment I am going to try is filling up the reservoir on my less-used espresso machine with vodka and pulling shots. I think the results could be awesome but I need to think about all the things that could possibly break on the machine as a result.

  6. Tess permalink
    February 18, 2012 1:38 pm

    Bitters last a while. You make them in small batches, and it is a matter of chucking a bunch of stuff in a jar, dumping in booze, giving it a shake and ignoring it for a month. Filter, bottle, then swill. Imbibe had a good rhubarb bitters recipe a while back that was drinkable just as is.


  7. Kate H permalink
    February 18, 2012 7:13 pm

    I made an apple vanilla infused vodka that was great, but tried the same thing with tequila and I’m not really a fan. The vodka only took a couple of days to steep. Not instant gratification but I could wait 72 hours. So next on my list is this and ginger infused vodka.

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