Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, January 12, 2007

In Search of Coffee Liqueur

It's been one of those weeks. The kind of week that involves 12+ hour work days, large clients threatening to walk without paying, water pouring down from your ceiling fan, and the amount of energy possessed by each member of the family being inversely proportional to her age.

So in the evening I decided to obey the urge I had felt all week to go find a good bottle of coffee liqueur. I can't say why the need came upon me all of a sudden. I haven't had coffee liqueur around for years. But the urge was there, and something had to be done about it.

In the end, I picked up two bottles: a full size of Patron Cafe XO (which I'd heard good things about) and a small one of Kahlua, which I got for comparison.

You never know if these things are going to be any good, so of course my first duty was to perform some rigorous taste tests so that no one else would get hurt if one of these turned out to be dangerous. (Or as Pooh feared with the pot of honey, to have cheese at the bottom.)

Patron Cafe XO is a tequila-based coffee liqueur. Now, I don't know what you think of tequila. I must confess that in general I don't think of it at all. Tequila is not something I would have thought of in combination with coffee. But some time back I'd read somewhere or other that it was great stuff. It is. At 35% ABV Patron Cafe is still quite smooth. There's perhaps a very, very slight sweetness to it, but it's generally very smooth with a good coffee taste to it. This is a coffee liqueur for brandy and whiskey drinkers. Nothing syrupy here.

Kahlua sports only 20% alcohol, and I could swear it must fill in the other 15% with sugar. The texture is syrupy, and the lingering taste of sweet with a slight underlying sourness like low grade coffee. There's no burn to it, for those who don't like their alcohol to taste like alcohol. But it's clearly not meant to be drunk straight. I think the sweetness level is pretty much calibrated for being mixed as a minority ingredient in creamy frozen drinks.

Still, coffee liqueur is intended primarily for mixing, so we pulled out the blender and the handy recipe card that came with the Cafe XO. The "XO Cafe Iced Affair" (there's a girly drink title if I ever saw one) called for coffee ice cream (we used Haagen Dazs), 1.5oz Cafe XO and a small amount of very finely ground coffee. Blend, then pour into glasses.

This met with general approval. It was a good, cold creamy drink for MrsDarwin, and it definitely was coffee-ish enough to meet with my own approval. A strong recommendation.

I'm of two minds whether it's time to branch out into more liqueurs. I'm moderately fond of Benedictine, though sometimes I'm in the mood for something less sweet and mix it 1:3 with Cognac. Next up might be Chartreuse, another liqueur with a long monastic heritage (including suffering under anti-clerical laws in France), but I haven't yet talked myself into shelling out at least $45 for a bottle of something I've never tried before, and which I can't seem to find terribly clear descriptions of. And then there is, of course, the ever-elusive (and illegal) absinthe...


Anonymous said...

Kahlua is indeed excessively sweet. My favorite use for Kahlua is a Toasted Almond (2oz Kahlua, 2oz Amaretto, 2oz cream, and a sprinkle of cinnamon).

The XO Cafe Iced Affair sounds gooood.

I think it's also really nice to mix Irish Cream with Vodka or Rum or some other stiff drink. (And now I really miss having a bunch of roommates with whom to split the cost of a liqueur cabinet.)

I think if you drink absinthe, you are required to be an artists and die of consumption. Alternately, since it was Grantaire's favorite drink, you could die on a barricade.

John Farrell said...

I'm a big fan of Peach Schnapps. It goes well with almost anything, vodka, tequila, rum, and sweetens it just the right amount on the rocks.

I keep Kahlua and Tia Maria, but I'm not currently in the liquer phase right now. More into red wine and the occasional Hornitos margarita.

Hang in there, man!


Fr Martin Fox said...

I bought some Starbucks liqueur some time back on an impulse, and I liked it; only the problem was, I couldn't sleep! (No, I didn't drink that much; two normal shots of it.)

So there it sits in my cupboard, insofar as the hour when I stop drinking caffiene is earlier than the hour when I usually have a drink.

I don't suppose anyone will make a liqueur decaffinato?

Anonymous said...

Ah, Chartreuse! I've never tasted it, but you could spend all day just inhaling it. There are so many many scents within its aroma. That may be why you can't find a clear description of it -- words just can't do the job. Ask for it for a gift-giving occasion. I'd love to have a bottle around just for aromatherapy ... going to put it on my list now that you've made me think of it :-)

Don said...

Absinthe is available, if you don't mind importing it from the Czech Republic: According to the website, "In the United States, Absinthe is not a controlled substance but its sale in bars and liquor stores is banned. Absinthe is still however legal to purchase and possess in the United States."

Anonymous said...

I have it on good authority that some Bailey's in a cup of homemade hot chocolate, with peppermint whipped cream on top, is an excellent nightcap. Or napcap.

Anonymous said...

Wow, thanks all the more for coming to dinner. Tough week!

Anonymous said...

Her boyfriend gave my roommate a bottle of Chartreuse a few years ago and we all tried some. I was underwhelmed, to say the least.

It had a very medicinal taste, which makes sense because that's why the monks made it, as a cure-all for what ails you, a super-duper herbal remedy with a kick. My theory is that after one dose you would get well just so as not to have to take another dose. :)

I'm sure it must appeal to some people. To each his own and all that. But I'd caution against spending a bunch of money unless you'd had at least a taste and knew what you were getting into. Had I spent the money on it, I'd have been pretty burned.