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Irish Coffee

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This warming winter cocktail from Jerry Slater only requires one spirit and a few pantry staples

In this week's column from restaurateur, cocktail maestro and cookbook author Jerry Slater, learn how to create an invigorating coffee cocktail with only a bottle of Southern whiskey, a hot cup of Joe, and a little sugar and heavy cream.

The first cold and drizzly day of the fall season hit recently and it made me think of another such day and the drink that made it special. The cocktail was a blend of hot coffee, whiskey and whipped cream that took the chill off a festive morning. Try this one on a holiday morning or for dessert on a cold evening.

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I first had this drink last March, when the there was still a chill in the air on the Charleston peninsula. I was participating in the city's annual Wine & Food Festival, and had been asked to make brunch-style drinks for an outdoor event. I had arrived there prepared to make light and refreshing drinks, like the Ruby Slipper, my rosemary infused riff on a Greyhound cocktail, on the open-air back porch.

But the shifting wind and the ominous clouds put the brakes on dining al fresco, and the chefs moved inside to the warm test kitchen. I set up shop, along with Charleston’s King Bean Coffee Roasters, outside on the covered front porch. I dodged the rain, which had by now started, but it was still cold. Light and refreshing cocktails no longer seemed like a good idea.


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My friends Ann Marshall and Scott Blackwell, owners of Charleston’s High Wire Distillery, had brought the vodka and gin for citrus based cocktails. They also had some of their unique and delicious sorghum whiskey made from grains grown on a Tennessee Mennonite farm. While a lot of us might think of biscuits when we hear sorghum, this “sugar of the South” makes a great tasting whiskey as well. That’s when a plan started to form.

So, with a table full of coffee mugs, high-quality dark-roast coffee and local whiskey, I had the makings of a drink to warm everyone up — in two ways. I was able to find heavy cream and a couple of Mason jars, and I quickly put a few folks to shaking. The result was a Southerner's take on Irish coffee, richer and more grain-forward in flavor, with a bonus of being hyper local. Let’s just say I made refills that morning.

Charleston Breakfast Coffee
If you'd like to scale up this recipe to serve more than one person, double the volume of heavy cream and whip it in a quart jar. Increase the cocktail ingredients by the number of cocktails you'd like to make.

Makes: 1 cocktail
Hands-on time: 15 minutes
Total time: 15 minutes

Demerara Simple Syrup
1/2 cup demerera sugar
1/2 cup water

Soft Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream

2 ounces whiskey, such as High Wire Revival Sorghum Whiskey 
1/2 ounce Demerara Simple Syrup (above)
8 ounces brewed dark roast coffee 
Soft whipped cream (above)

To make the simple syrup: In a small saucepan, bring the sugar and the water to a simmer over medium heat. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. Let cool to room temperature before using.

To make the soft whipped cream: Place the cream in a pint-sized Mason jar and seal tightly with the lid. Shake jar as you would a cocktail shaker until the cream starts get thick and pourable, but not yet firm. (For larger portions, pass the jar around and make everyone work a little for their delicious treat.)

To make the cocktail: In a coffee mug, combine the whiskey and simple syrup. Top with the hot coffee and stir to combine. Pour the soft whipped cream on top to form a layer about 1/2 inch thick on top. Add more cream, as desired. Serve without stirring; drink through the cold layer of cream and enjoy. 

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Jerry Slater is the co-author of the newly published Southern Foodways Alliance Guide to Cocktails. He and his wife, Krista, will open their new Athens, GA, establishment The Expat in early 2018.