Cold-brewed Coffee Liqueur

straightened version(1) A wander around the recent London Coffee Festival introduced me to some really good cold brew coffee liqueurs, Mr Black and Conkers.
(2) My better half needs an espresso first thing. Given the recent hot spell, I tried making cold brew for a more summery way for her to mainline that morning caffeine.
(1) + (2) = A pressing need to attempt making my own cold brew liqueur…

First things first: cold brew, at least as I’ve made it, gives you massive amounts of the lovely, fruity, aromatic qualities in coffee without the bracing acridity of an espresso. Keeping that subtlety in the liqueur was important, so while I wanted to brew a strong batch to blend in with the booze, I didn’t want to go too far. I plumped for a 4:1 ratio of water to coarsely-ground coffee.

As I didn’t want to have the base spirits overwhelm the coffee, I went with equal parts Appleton Special and La Hechicera rums and Black Cow vodka, hoping that would give some complexity and sweetness without fighting the coffee for space.

Lastly, I made up a uncooked rich simple syrup (apparently, dissolving the sugar without heating it gives a fresher, more “natural” flavour). I dropped the ball a bit here, as I absentmindedly used a demerara sugar rather than the intended golden caster sugar. Darker sugar meant far more pronounced toffee/molasses notes, which aren’t necessary with the lighter flavour and aroma of the cold brew. Also, while you may be able to persuade yourself that the syrup has a slightly fresher flavour for not being cooked, it takes a lot more time and effort for that marginal gain, especially with big demerara crystals.

Once all three parts were readied, it was just a question of blending to taste.

To put it all together:

  • 300ml booze
  • 140ml coffee
  • 60ml rich syrup

Mix together and decant into a clean, sanitised 500ml bottle ¹.

As all the spirits were 40% abv, the end liqueur came out at 24% abv. I’ve not had mine long enough to know what it’s life will be, but it’s been fine for a week. I’d imagine the nose would fade within a few months?

As to tasting notes, it’s pretty successful. The smoothness of the coffee sits nicely on top of the rums and vodka, who contribute without dominating. The demerara/toffee notes are a bit more than hoped for, but it’s not sickly.

For the next batch I’ll try making the coffee at a 3:1 or 2:1 ratio,  reduce the sugar levels slightly and go to golden caster sugar for the syrup. But even with my desire to tamper, it’s a very pleasant sipper, neat or on ice.

As a mixer, it’s lovely and flexible. Just as a spritz with red vermouth and fizzy water it tempers their acidity and adds a smooth richness without too much body. I may have put together a more extensive cocktail elsewhere that suggests it plays well with amari as well.

Below are the steps required to make the constituent parts:

Cold brew coffee:

  1. Make up the cold brew the day before by taking very coarsely ground coffee and steeping it in cold water. I made enough to for general use, so 150ml of coffee (I found it easier to measure by volume here) to 600ml of water.
  2. Cover, and put it somewhere cool and leave for 18 hours
  3. Decant through a sieve and then coffee paper (kitchen paper fine if you’re without). You may need to filter it through a few times to clear fine particles.

Rich sugar syrup:

  1. Measure 200ml of sugar and 100ml of water (again, volume is easier here than weight). I used demerara, which was fine, but it really pushes the toffee notes. Next batch, golden caster sugar.
  2. The easy way to make it is to gently heat the two together, stirring regularly, until all sugar crystals are gone. Cool and then decant into a clean, sanitised bottle. It’ll keep in the fridge for weeks, so any surplus can find it’s way happily into cocktails down the line.
  3. The uncooked way is to put the sugar and water into a sealable jar or tupperware and shake hard. I found I had to do this repeatedly over a 12-hour period, but that will have been worse for using demerara. Once the sugar is fully dissolved, pour into a clean, sanitised bottle.
  4. Use just-boiled water and stir it and the sugar in a pan over a gentle heat until fully dissolved. Cool and decant into a clean, sanitised bottle.

Spirit blend:

  1. 1 part Appleton Estate Special rum, 1 part La Hechicera rum, and 1 part Black Cow vodka (in this case 100ml of each). The Appleton has rich sugary notes and a bit of Jamaican rum funk, La Hechicera has lovely wood and citrus complexity and the Black Cow gave a smooth, sweet, and lightly vanilla base.


¹ That’s 60% booze, 28% coffee and 12% sugar syrup, if you want the original proportions for larger or smaller batches.

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