- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 27, 2008

As a child, I would awaken to the aroma of my father’s morning brew, and I have vivid recol

As a child, I would awaken to the aroma of my father’s morning brew, and I have vivid recollections of my grandfather drinking coffee with every meal. Yet I was slow to catch the bug. Mainly because I was forbidden to have the drink until I was an adult — something about stunting my growth or causing blindness or making my ears stick out.

I don’t remember the exact reason my mother gave, but I’m from the South, where we often eschew scientific fact for good old hand-me-down wisdom. It instilled enough fear that I didn’t have my first taste of coffee until I was 20.

In college I began to explore the world of coffee, trying to catch up on what I’d been missing. It was intoxicating — the aromas, the flavors. I got hooked, but I didn’t use coffee to start my day. Rather, I found it a better way to end the day. Maybe it was all of those “Leave It to Beaver” re-runs I watched — Ward Cleaver sitting in the living room after dinner, still in his suit, enjoying “un cafe.” It was all so elegant and comforting — the perfect nightcap.

The problem, though, is that I also enjoy ending the evening with a few other things, namely desserts and digestifs. Oh, the torture.

If only there was a way to combine the three. So I went to several of my favorite Los Angeles mixologists with a challenge: Make me a coffee-flavored cocktail with the ex- hilarating potency of a digestif and enough sugar to satisfy my sweet tooth. The results were enlightening.

To my surprise, each mixologist crafted a cold cocktail — a newer trend, but one that I hope sticks around for a while. The cool temperature served to cleanse the palate and ensure that the drink wouldn’t be too cloying.

Jaren Singh, bartender at Michael Mina’s Stonehill Tavern in Dana Point, prepared a cocktail that was 3 parts coffee, 2 parts Nocino della Cristina, and 1 part cream — all shaken over ice and strained into a martini glass.

It was delightful. Nocino is a traditional Italian walnut liqueur made with unripe walnuts, brandy or grappa, sugar and spices. This brand uses grape brandy from the Napa Valley, making it a particularly pleasing digestif.

Brandon Bossert, manager and lead bartender at Dominick’s in West Hollywood, mixes favorites like sambuca and Tia Maria with heavy cream to create his caffe Romano. It’s a satisfying and refreshing liquid dessert.

Albert Trummer, the renowned Austrian bar chef, spoiled me with his house-made coffee liqueur. Made with high-quality chocolate, premium Cognac, espresso and heavy cream.

You’ll never want to buy Kahlua again. It was truly heaven in a glass — an elegant and inspired way to end the night.

So, the next time you feel like a nightcap, hunker down in your living room and try one of these.

Trummer’s house-made coffee liqueur

From Albert Trummer, Los Angeles-based cocktail consultant and owner of the soon-to-open Apotheke lounge in New York City.

1½ ounces quality bittersweet chocolate such as Valrhona, chopped

2 ounces of high-quality Cognac such as Hennessy

1 shot of double-strength espresso, room temperature

1 ounce heavy cream

Place the chocolate in a small saucepan and melt over medium heat, being careful not to burn. Alternatively, place the chocolate in a small ceramic dish and microwave on medium-high for 10 seconds, stirring to melt the chocolate. Microwave another 10 seconds if needed to fully melt the chocolate. Stir in the cognac and mix well.

Pour the espresso into a small old-fashioned glass, tumbler or liqueur glass. Over the back of a spoon, slowly pour the cognac-chocolate mixture over the espresso to create two separate layers (if the layers mix, don’t worry). Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add the heavy cream. Shake vigorously for 10 seconds until frothy and thoroughly chilled. Slowly strain the foamed cream over the chocolate layer.

Note: Makes 1 drink. This is an after-dinner sipping drink, so serve it in a small glass, preferably 6 ounces or less.

Caffe Romano

From Brandon Bossert of Dominick’s restaurant in West Hollywood

1½ ounces anise-flavored liqueur such as Sambuca

1½ ounces coffee liqueur such as Tia Maria

1½ ounce heavy cream

Pinch of ground espresso or dark roast coffee

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add the liqueurs and heavy cream. Shake vigorously for 10 seconds until frothy and thoroughly chilled. Strain into a martini glass and sprinkle with the ground espresso. Makes 1 drink.

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