December is here and that means that entertaining is in the air. And, it is my favorite month for entertaining because all three meal parts are fair game. It’s 5 o’clock all-day long, and you can eat sweet and savory foods any time of the day.
A late breakfast or brunch is my preferred way to celebrate this season. This time of day, people often want both coffee and a drink. One of my “rules” is that if I have more than 2 guests, I set up a bar so people can make their own drinks. ‘Tis the season to set up a coffee bar that is literally both coffee and coffee-flavored spirits, and other spirits that go well with coffee. This DIY boozy coffee bar will become the talk of your party—and it couldn’t be easier.
The bar can be set up on the end of your kitchen counter, on a rolling cart, or an extra table. I like to set up all the glassware, stirrers, cream and sugar, cocoa as well as cacao powder; coffee and spirits together. Because people love iced coffee all year long, I make sure to have both coffee cups and glasses for iced drinks. If you have room on the bar, you can add a small espresso machine or a French Press.
I also love to set out my prettiest espresso and cappuccino cups, like the limited edition illy Art Collection by Ai Weiwei. For iced coffee or long coffee drinks, make sure that your glasses are tempered and are suitable for both hot and cold drinks. My pick is Duralex and they can be used all year long for water, wine, hot and cold coffee, tea, etc. If your crowd loves an espresso martini, add martini glasses and a shaker. These cups and glasses also make welcome holiday gifts for just about everyone on your list. Throw in a bottle of one of these spirits and you’ll be everyone’s favorite Santa!
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Today, there are a lot of really good coffee flavored spirits, many made with cold brew coffee, or by macerating coffee beans in the base spirit. You should choose your favorites and the bottles that you know your guests prefer—this is the fun part and an opportunity to try something new.
Some of my favorites include Hue-Hue Cold Brewed Coffee Rum from Eastside Distilling in Portland, Oregon, Patron XO Café Tequila, and Mr. Black’s vodka-based Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur from Australia. If you are a fan of Mr. Black’s, keep your eyes open for their limited editions like the single origins or Mr. Black’s Amaro.
I also like including the OG Mexican Kahula Coffee Liqueur, and the Cold-Brew Coffee and Vanilla Tia Maria. Finally, two favorite bottles that I brought back from my last trip to Ireland two years ago are now widely available in the USA; Jameson Cold-Brew, and Five Farms Single Batch Irish Cream Liqueur. The cream liqueur is a quick way to turn a shot of espresso into a special hot-coffee cocktail. This fresh dairy cream from County Cork, Ireland, comes bottled in a beautiful navy-blue ceramic “milk jug” that is worth keeping and re-using after the contents are gone. Baileys Original Irish Cream and Buffalo Trace Bourbon Cream are always crowd pleasers.
Tia Maria also makes a delicious RTD Iced Coffee Frappe with Nitro Technology that creates the frappe foam when you open the can. I like to put these in a bucket with ice for people who prefer an easy RTE instead of DIY—all they have to do, is pop the can open and pour it into a glass. If your guests are black coffee drinkers and whiskey drinkers, the pure and simple DashFire Cold Brew Bourbon is also in RTD cans and can be added to the bucket for people who prefer no dairy.
“Hard Coffee” is a growing category, and these are my top picks, but there are so many choices out there. I encourage you to try whatever looks good to you and make your own boozy coffee bar this year—I promise it will raise your spirits!