Foynes, Ireland (1942)
There’s few things more satisfying and comforting than a well-made Irish Coffee. The cool cream blends with the hot coffee as you take that first sip, backed up by the mellow nip of Irish whiskey and sweet rich sugar. Perfect for a rainy afternoon pick-me-up or for a turbo-charged dessert.
To make this really special, you’ll want to pay attention to the details, starting with the whiskey. Irish whiskey is mellow, the softer predecessor to wild country Scotch whisky. I prefer Redbreast in this – it’s an old-style whiskey made in pot stills that give spirits more body and funk than column stills (those make for cleaner, crisper spirits). That extra bit of character stands up well when mixed with bold coffee.
For the coffee, go for the best you can produce at home. Use a medium roast (darker if you prefer) and grind your beans fresh. Use a French Press or a pour-over kit to make the coffee (drip coffee makers generally don’t get the water hot enough to extract the best flavor). Make it on the strong side since you’ll be diluting it with whiskey. For the sugar, go with demerara or turbinado sugar – that extra bit of molasses softens and unifies the coffee and whiskey where white sugar would be cutting and sharp. If you don’t have the right sugar on hand, mix half white sugar and half brown sugar – that’ll get you close enough. And for the whipped cream: sorry to say, but you gotta whip it fresh. Premade and presweetened whipped cream isn’t the right texture, won’t float on top, and has sweetness that will nuke your beautiful drink.
This is an example where specific glassware makes a difference: Many places use a larger handled 8.5-ounce glass that encourages a bit too much coffee in the mix. To do this drink proper, buy a set of the 6-ounce Libbey “Georgian” glasses they used in the original (made during World War II at a coastal seaplane port) and at The Buena Vista in San Francisco (where they make up to 2,000 Irish Coffees a day).
Hardware: Jigger, Plastic Measuring Cup, Teaspoon measure, Kettle, French Press (or pour-over kit), Standing mixer (or whisk), Barspoon
Glassware: 6-ounce Irish Coffee glass
Spirit: Irish whiskey (recommended: Redbreast, Jameson, Tullamore DEW)
Accents & Garnishes: Demerara sugar, Freshly-whipped heavy cream
Boil enough water to prepare your coffee, plus a bit extra. When boiled, fill your Irish Coffee glass with boiling water to preheat, then prepare your coffee. While the coffee is brewing, in a standing mixer (or by hand using a whisk), whip 1/4 cup of heavy cream to thicken. Stop before you get to soft peaks – the cream should be thick but still pourable. When the coffee is ready, pour out the boiling water that was added to the Irish Coffee glass.
In the glass, combine:
2 teaspoons demerara sugar
1 1/2 oz Irish whiskey
scant 1/2 cup coffee
Stir well to mix and dissolve sugar, then slowly ladle the cold whipped cream over the top to float – just enough to fill the glass, no more. Distribute and level the whipped cream with the back of a barspoon.
Paris, France (1930s)
Making just one Bloody Mary is a pain in the ass. Even at its simplest (vodka, tomato juice, lemon juice, Worchestershire, horseradish, salt & pepper), it’s pretty complicated. Making a batch of homemade Bloody Mary mix, on the other hand, is fun and easy. Sometimes things work out for a reason: This is a morning drink like no other, and who wants to hassle with a making a drink when you’re foggy in the head and grumpy? Have a batch of this mix on hand in the fridge and you’re good to go.
Most cocktail archaeologists agree this drink started as a simple highball of vodka and tomato juice at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris during Prohibition, where bartender Fernand “Pete” Petiot served these to American expatriates and tourists. On his post-Prohibition stint at New York City’s St. Regis Hotel King Cole Bar, Petiot spiced up the flavor by swapping gin for vodka and adding lemon juice, horseradish, hot sauce, celery salt, and black pepper as a “Red Snapper.” It wasn’t long before people fell in love with this bizarre combination – savory and nourishing with just enough buzz to change your mind about being awake. And of course, as the tide turned mid-century, vodka elbowed out the gin and took back its original spot.
The recipe that follows below is based on Jeffrey Morgenthaler‘s contemporary mix, about as full of flavor as you can get. It’s a fancified and brunch-worthy take on the original. It’ll make about a quart of Bloody Mary mix, enough for eight servings. Batch more if you think you’ll need it – it’ll keep refrigerated for a couple weeks.
The fun thing about the Bloody Mary is its flexibility: Start with this version as a template and feel free to personalize it as you like. Dial the spiciness up or down, add different fresh juices, go crazy with the garnishes. I’ve seen everything topping this drink from a stack of olives to bacon to beef jerky. Even saw one once garnished with a small hamburger, it was ridiculous. Make it with gin instead of vodka for the original Red Snapper, with tequila for a Bloody Maria, with Irish whiskey for a Bloody Molly. Some bars have complete menus of Bloody Mary variations. In Canada, they make this with Clamato (a blend of tomato and clam juices) for a Bloody Caesar.
There’s really only one rule about the Bloody Mary: don’t drink them after sunset. It’s meant to pair with the morning paper and a good long stare out the window while you come back to life.
Hardware: Shaker, Jigger, Electric blender, Sieve, Straw (optional)
Ice: Ice Cubes
Glassware: Collins glass
Spirit: Vodka (recommended: Karlsson’s Gold, Absolut)
Juices, Accents, & Garnishes: Canned tomatoes, whole or diced (recommended: Muir Glen fire-roasted), Lemon juice, Garlic, Avocado, Worchestershire sauce, Steak sauce (recommended: A-1 or HP), Hot sauce (recommended: Crystal or Tabasco), Fresh-grated or “prepared” horseradish (not horseradish sauce), Celery salt, Black pepper, Chili powder (recommended: dried and pulverized New Mexico or Ancho chilis – not powdered chili mix), Lemon wedge, Celery stalk
BLOODY MARY MIX
In an electric blender, combine:
2 14.5-ounce cans tomatoes
1 small garlic clove
1 quarter avocado
Blend well to liquify, then pour into a quart jar and add:
1 oz Worcestershire sauce
3/4 oz lemon juice
1 tsp steak sauce
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp celery salt
1 tsp hot sauce
1/2 tsp horseradish
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 cup water
In a shaker filled with ice cubes, add:
2 oz vodka
4 oz Bloody Mary mix
Roll gently (just glide from one side of the shaker to the other – shaking will foam the tomato juice) to blend and chill. Strain into an ice cube-filled Collins glass. Garnish with a lemon wedge and celery stalk. Optionally, serve with a straw.
Milan, Italy (1860s)
Situation: you’re gearing up for dinner, but it’s still a ways away. A Negroni sounds great, but in this heat? Not exactly refreshing. You just want a little something to sip on, something tall, something… satisfying. Satisfying without knocking you on your ass, if possible. Americano to the rescue.
Back in the 1860s, Gaspare Campari (yes, that Campari) ran a bar in Milan, the Caffè Campari. Locals enjoyed a late-afternoon cocktail of half-Campari / half-vermouth cut with seltzer they called the “Milano-Torino” (vermouth being from Turin and all). As more and more Americans visited Italy during Prohibition for a break from the squares ruining the party back home, the Milano-Torino became their favorite. So much so, the barkeep at Caffè Campari renamed it the “Americano.” Try it out next time you need a vacation from the heat.
Hardware: Jigger, Barspoon, Straw (optional)
Ice: Cracked ice
Glassware: Collins glass
Mixers & Liqueurs: Campari, Italian vermouth, Tonic water (recommended: Fever-Tree), sparkling mineral water (recommended: Pellegrino), or seltzer
Juices, Accents, & Garnishes: Orange wheel
In a Collins glass filled with cracked ice, add:
1 1/2 oz Campari
1 1/2 oz Italian vermouth
Stir well to blend and chill, then top with:
1 1/2 oz tonic water, sparkling mineral water, or seltzer
Stir lightly to blend and garnish with an orange wheel. Optionally, serve with a straw.