DrinkWire is Liquor.com’s showcase for the best articles, recipes and reviews from the web’s top writers and bloggers. In this post, The Bag Broker offers a guide to coffee cocktails.


There aren't many drinks in the world that make such a huge difference to our lives as alcohol and coffee – so perhaps it is inevitable that combining these two ingredients would create some of the most popular cocktails in the world. So let's take a look at the history of putting coffee in cocktails and how some of the world's favourite drinks came into existence.

The keys to a good coffee cocktail

It should be noted that the coffee you use should be as fresh as possible. That means, firstly, storing your coffee in high quality bags like those supplied by The Bag Broker to ensure that the beans don't become oxidised, and never using pre-made espresso shots for your cocktails – make them when you need them. The flavour is the coffee will be vastly superior if you use great quality coffee that has been stored correctly and made to order.

The kind of liquor that you use to go with your coffee can make a huge difference too. The simplicity of vodka makes it a greater partner to coffee's strong flavours, while rum, whiskey and (obviously) coffee liqueurs are also complementary to the taste. Just make sure you avoid gin.

Espresso Martini

Perhaps the most famous coffee cocktail is the now ubiquitous espresso martini. It's rare to find a self-respecting cocktail bar that doesn't serve this creamy classic, and you might not know that it was actually invented in the UK. London bartender Dick Bradsell takes the credit, telling a widely-accepted story that a famous model walked up to his bar and asked him to make a drink that would “wake me up, then f*** me up”.

He mixed a shot of Espresso with vodka, coffee liqueur and sugar syrup, and the espresso martini was born. Recipes now vary, but given that this is a drink that was served for the first time in the 1980s, it has achieved incredible popularity since then.

Ingredients specified by IBA:

  • 5cl vodka
  • 1cl Kahlua
  • 1 short strong espresso
  • Sugar syrup to taste

Simply shake and strain into a chilled glass.


White Russian

Another enormously popular coffee-based cocktail is the White Russian. The White Russian is now so renowned, it has superseded the Black Russian, which was the original version of the drink. The Black Russian was conceived not in Russia, but in Belgium in 1949 when Gustave Tops, a barman at Hotel Metropole in Brussels created the drink in honour of the US ambassador to Luxembourg, Perle Mesta who was a big fan of the simple cocktail’s two ingredients: vodka and coffee liqueur.

The White Russian was officially recognised some 16 years later. It has the same basic recipe as the Black Russian with the addition of cream. The 1998 film The Big Lebowski led to a resurgence in the popularity of the drink, as it is the main character The Dude's favourite.

Ingredients specified by IBA:

  • 5cl vodka
  • 2cl coffee liqueur
  • Float fresh cream on top

Simply slowly stir the drink and enjoy once mixed.


Irish coffee

Another iconic coffee cocktail is the Irish coffee. To some, an Irish coffee just means adding a splash of their favourite tipple to a mug of coffee, but it's actually also a proper cocktail recognised by the IBA. The concept of whiskey and coffee had been around since the middle of the 19th century, but officially Irish coffee was created in the small town of Foynes in 1942.

Irish chef Joe Sheridan worked at a restaurant in Foynes that catered to passengers flying from an airbase near Limerick. One night a plane was forced to turn back to the airbase after being caught in a storm. To raise the spirits of the stranded passengers, Sheridan created a drink composing of strong coffee, Irish whiskey, brown sugar and whipped cream. It hit the spot and a truly legendary drink was born.

Ingredients specified by IBA:

  • 4cl Irish whiskey
  • 9cl hot coffee
  • 3cl fresh cream
  • 1tsp brown sugar

Warm the Irish whiskey then pour into the glass of hot coffee and add the teaspoon of sugar.