Sunday, February 2, 2014

Distraction II: When good coffee goes boozy

Since it is going to be damn cold for the next two months, by the odds, I've been fiddling with drinks that suit the weather.  In addition to some experimentation with a variety of liqueurs that have thus far not really paid off, I've been making an occasional vice of coffee cocktails: that is, something like an Irish coffee.  I never learned to like Irish whiskey, though, so my poison of choice of late is a nice aged rum.  Rum goes so much better with coffee than does whiskey, anyway!

For the most part, the drink is hard to screw up.  The steps are blessedly simple, if you don't want to get too fancy.

Step 1: Brew some coffee.
Step 2: Get a mug – because who the hell actually keeps Irish coffee glasses on hand? or why? – and combine a spoonful of sugar/simple syrup/agave syrup and a healthy tot of rum.
Step 3: Pour the coffee into the mug and stir all ingredients briefly.
Step 4: Top with thickened cream and serve.

But hark! Step 4 is what has bedeviled me from the beginning.  If you're the kind of obsessive that wants to get the drink right, then it just isn't good enough to pour in a little heavy cream and call it a day.  The cream must be "thickened," according to traditional recipes; that means heavy whipping cream that has been thickened by beating, but not so much that it turns into whipped cream, per se. 

I still can't do it.  Not by hand whisk, not by hand-held mixer.  I cannot make the bloody cream thicken.  I can't even overdo it and make whipped cream.  I just don't have the patience to whip the cream long enough for any of this to occur, I think.  My best attempt was some very slightly thickened cream that kinda-sorta did what the recipe calls for: it slid on top of the surface of the coffee for a second or two, before melting into the drink.  In theory, the thickened cream should sit comfortably in a layer on top of the coffee, and should only melt into it as the drink is consumed.

So, if anyone has any good tips on exactly a) how long to beat the cream, b) how much cream I need to put in the bowl to start, if I'm making only one mug's worth, or c) how to fix whatever other complications I have created for myself, please shoot me an email or comment below.

My other fiddling with the drink comes in the brewing of the coffee.  I love to flavor coffee with a pinch of cinnamon mixed into the ground beans just before I add the water, so I sometimes try a spice mixture to bring out different notes in the rum.  I haven't hit on any magic combinations yet, but it'll happen sooner or later.  If I don't get totally sick of allspice and nutmeg, that is.

12 comments:

  1. This sounds like something Hubby would die to get his hands on. All you had to say was Rum. Dude, you know how Hubby loves his rum. He might also have an idea about how to handle the cream. Of course, I'm an ingrate. I'd say, "Have you tried coffee creamer?" ;)

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    1. By all means, ask him! I bet you're right that he'd have a good idea or two.

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    2. You'd want soft peaks for the thickened cream. You want to add a bit of volume.

      It really doesn't matter, but the harder the peaks the less it will easily melt into the drink.

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  2. My Irish friend uses double cream, not whipping cream (in the UK whipping cream is half way between single and double cream, not sure what the American equivalent is - the fattiest standard cream available), and she doesn't do any pre-beating, but she does use a metal spoon to help pour it. She puts the tip of the spoon into the coffee, holding it at an angle, then pours the cream slowly onto the top of the bowl where the handle joins on so that it runs over the spoon and slides gently onto the coffee rather than landing with a plop. That makes a lovely layer on the top.

    I don't like rum and I do like whisky, but brandy coffee is even better for my taste! And now I want one. ::pout::

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    1. I'm vaguely aware that the UK takes high-fat dairy products a bit more seriously than we Yanks do: I see British recipes calling for things like clotted cream and double cream that I have never seen in a store outside the UK. Heavy whipping cream is the thickest, highest in fat content substance I'm aware of in my local grocery stores. Except maybe the Mexican-style crema fresca. Hm.

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    2. Crema fresca is close to Creme Fraiche, and may have a sour flavor. I think you can find double cream in some markets.

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  3. Try this tip: Pour the whipped cream over a warm spoon on its way into the glass. It helps the cream sort of acclimate to heat so that it doesn't just melt in an instant. (http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-irish-coffee-167678 for more detail)

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    1. But how do I thicken the cream before I do so? *wails*

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  4. I honestly think the trouble may be that you aren't beating the cream long enough. Which is a terrible horrible thing to have to do--I've made whipped cream by hand, and it blows, but. You might be helped by using a metal bowl and metal whisk that have both been chilled in the freezer, and the coldest cream you can--cold cream whips up faster. I switch arms frequently. It feels like it's never going to happen, and then it just--then it just starts. Miserable work, but, well, good for the upper arms? Do dudes not have fear of flabby upper arms?

    Or you can buy spray whipped cream and be fucking done with this bullshit, which I highly recommend as a solution. Also spray whipped cream can be eaten directly from the can on particularly bad days. I tell myself that it's less calorie dense than ice cream when necessary.

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  5. If you are trying to make a single serving that is probably the problem. Use the hand mixer (or in a pinch a food processor) cold bowl and blades, and make more of it. It will get less whipped in storing.

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  6. Another thought that occurred to me is that sometimes I add some powdered sugar when I make whipped cream for other purposes. Perhaps the powdered sugar would give it some body? At any rate, I think the advice to use a hand mixer is good.

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