Coffee bitters and the Antigua Old-Fashioned

antigua

With my dual interests in cocktails and coffee it was only a matter of time before the two collided in the same glass. Most recently I’ve been experimenting with coffee bitters. Many roots and barks can be used as bittering agents, so why not the pleasant bitterness of coffee beans? My friend Lance Mayhew and I have tried out several recipes for coffee bitters and with batch #5 we’ve hit on a combination that I find very satisfying. We use Lemonhart 151-proof rum as a base and add in a few complementary flavors like orange peel and star anise. The final product has a distinct coffee aroma and taste without overpowering the other ingredients; it might be more accurate to call these coffee-orange bitters given the strong orange note they produce. (Coffee geeks will be interested to know that the beans are Stumptown’s Costa Rica Herbazu; how much of a difference origin makes in these bitters is yet to be determined.)

My favorite use for the bitters so far is in a rum Old-Fashioned. I’ve tried this with a number of rums, searching for a spirit to give the drink the right amount sweetness without tipping too far in the direction of strong caramel flavor. My favorite so far is English Harbour, an Antiguan rum with just enough time in barrel to give it depth. It’s well-suited for a classic Old-Fashioned preparation:

2 oz English Harbour rum
.5 tsp superfine sugar
2 dashes coffee bitters

Stir all ingredients to dissolve the sugar, add ice, and stir again. Finish with a strip of orange peel.

The rum Old-Fashioned with coffee bitters has been a popular off the menu item at Carlyle for a couple months now and will be making the jump to prime time later this week.

Update 4/12/10: The recipe for our coffee bitters has been posted here.

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