Espresso Martinis are ubiquitous. But in recent years a new trend has emerged out of bartenders and customers pushing past the blend of vodka, espresso and coffee liqueur in search of fresh ideas. Enter cold-drip and cold-brew cocktails.
“It’s been building for a while,” says Simon McGoram, owner of Neighbourhood in Sydney and National Whisky Ambassador for Diageo. “It’s grown from the popularity of the Espresso Martini. Having to create a shot of espresso to-order behind a busy bar is not always practical. It also doesn’t keep very well. But cold brew or cold drip improves after sitting in the fridge. A lot of bars actually turned to using cold brew [to make their Espresso Martinis] anyway.”
He says now with commercial cold-brew and cold-drip coffees widely available, people have started drinking them more at home. At the same time, whisky has seen a huge growth in popularity in Australia. So it was only a matter of time before the two came together: “It’s a natural progression for bartenders to explore what flavours go with it.”
Part of the reason the pairing works so well is each drink’s inherent complexity. The trick is getting the balance right. “The more intense the coffee, the more intense the whisky you want to pair with it,” says McGoram. “They need to work together.”
In the hands of bartenders searching for fresh ideas, this has made for some interesting creations. “Cold-brew Negronis have been around for a few years,” says McGoram. “One of my favourite variations is a whisky Boulevardier. It’s like a whisky Negroni with a bit of cold brew in there. I’ve also seen cold-coffee being used with rich, intense single malt whiskies like Lagavulin.”
The complexity of the pairing also means whisky-led cold-brew and cold-drip-based drinks can work without intervention. “Just a shot of whisky, cold-brew or cold-drip coffee, ice and maybe a twist of lemon works well,” says McGoram.
As can they side-by-side: “In the same way smelling coffee beans [between fragrances] helps reset your nose, sipping cold-brew or cold-drip between whiskies can help reset the tastebuds. It’s quite subtle and it works as a nice contrast.”
Sugar not necessary
McGoram says another reason for the growing trend is bartenders and consumers are turning away from overly sugary cocktails. “For a long time you’d see daiquiris being whizzed up in a blender with three different liqueurs and loads of syrup,” says McGoram. “But as [drinking culture] gets a little more sophisticated, people don’t need sugar to disguise the alcohol in a beverage. People want to be able to taste the base spirit because we’re drinking better-quality spirits than we used to.” This natural lack of bitterness in the pairing makes it well-suited to summer. “It has a cleaner, more refreshing flavour and is quite approachable,” says McGoram. “That’s why the pairing works so well – whisky gives it great character. As well as being served over ice, the varied flavours in the coffee – like fruit, cherry, lemongrass, citrus, peach and caramel – can shine.”
Some of Australia’s best bars are embracing this trend for summer and curating a selection of cold-brew and cold-drip drinks specially tailored to whisky. Here’s where to try them.
Venue: The Baxter Inn
Cocktail: Walk this Whey – featuring Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Espresso Roast, cold-drip, pretzel whey, salted syrup.
Cocktail: JW Roasted Espresso Cafe – featuring Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Espresso Roast, cold-press coffee, Italian liqueur, caramel, sea salt.
Venue: Maybe Frank
Cocktail: Espresso Roast – featuring Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch, licorice syrup, cold-brew coffee with vanilla, coffee roast.
Venue: Cho Cho San
Cocktail: Deja Brew – featuring Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch, yuzu, umeshu, cold-drip coffee, shiso, malted milk.
Venue: Rockpool Bar & Grill
Cocktail: The Running Man – featuring Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Espresso Roast, banana cold drip, condensed milk, chocolate bitters, banana.
Cocktail: Starfish and Coffee – featuring Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Espresso Roast, red ale, cold-drip coffee with maple-reduction glaze, cacao bitters, cassia, anise.
Cocktail: Vista Brew House – featuring Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Espresso Roast, cold-brew coffee concentrate, mandarin liqueur, herbal liqueur, peach bitters coffee tonic.
Venue: Black Pearl
Cocktail: #Coffeetime – featuring Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Espresso Roast, coconut water, cold-brew, turbo peach.
Venue: Whisky and Alement
Cocktail: Johnnie’s Java Juice – featuring Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Espresso Roast, espresso malt syrup, Guinness, barley.
Venue: The Emerson
Cocktail: Walk on the Wild Side – featuring Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Espresso Roast, triple sec, cold-brew, orange juice, sugar.
Cocktail: A Man Is Not An Island – featuring Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Espresso Roast, pineapple syrup, lemon, herbal liqueur, bitters, cold-brew, soda.
Venue: Saville Row
Cocktail: Voltaire – Johnnie Walkers Blenders’ Batch Espresso Roast, curacao, chestnut liqueur, cold-brew.
Cocktail: Johnnie Walkers Blenders’ Batch Espresso Roast, banana and coconut-infused cold-brew, wattle seed liqueur, sweet vermouth and anise.
Venue: Roosevelt Lounge
Cocktail: Dirty Little Secret – featuring Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Espresso Roast, cherry syrup, sugar syrup, cold-brew, chai syrup.
Venue: Peaky Bodega
Cocktail: MacDaddy Fiz – featuring Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Espresso Roast, brandy liqueur, lemon juice, vanilla syrup, cold-drip coffee, egg white, tonic water.
Venue: The Dominion League
Cocktail: Golden Cold Brew – featuring Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Espresso Roast, cold-brew, coffee-infused Averna, golden stout, whisky-barrel stout, salt.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with World Class Drinking.