Sunday Morning Coffee, with Cooper’s Cask Whiskey Barrel Coffee

You may have noticed, I write a good deal about booze.  Perhaps you didn’t, in which case I’m shocked you’re literate.  Congratulations on that literacy thing, by the way.  So yes, I’ve written quite a lot about booze, which is kind of the point of this blog.  But perhaps that makes me appear one dimensional to your eyes.  Sure I wrote about poutine and debauchery recently in my Canadian Odyssey, but really, that had a lot to do with boozing and such as well.  Recently I was approached with an opportunity to tangentially expand my horizons, and go beyond just whiskey swilling to my other favorite vice–caffeinating.  You see, sometimes people actually read this blathering nonsense and enjoy it, and one such gentleman made me an offer I could not refuse.  Accept rather than waking up with a horse’s head in my bed, I woke up with a message on my blog inviting me to try his product, a coffee.

You may be thinking to yourself, well, clearly this guy is a lush—but what qualifies him to pass judgement on coffee?  Well, here are my qualifications.

  1. I drink a lot of coffee. Usually 5-6 “cups” a day, although when opportunity presents a cup may be a redeye or a double espresso or just a very large cup.
  2. I know that what you get at Starbucks is not a macchiato, it’s a sugar bloated botched abortion.
  3. I really enjoy my coffee, don’t we all have preferences or critiques on coffee anyways?

So, I may be under qualified.  In this situation, however, I may be just the man for the job; see this is special coffee, whiskey barrel aged coffee.  See what I mean by tangential? Let’s get to it.

Cooper’s Cask Coffee is a recent (very recent, like I may be drinking the first batch) start-up hitting the ground running out of Rhode Island.  Which is a fine state, by the way.  John and Jason, the fellas behind the company both had a shared passion for coffee (like many of us,) clearly some drive (like a lot fewer of us,) and a winning idea (like we all wish we did.)  Whiskey barrel aging is booming the world over, a wide variety of products from wines, beers, and other whiskies to fish sauces (yes, really) and maple syrup.  For John and Jason the wheels got turning, and Cooper’s Cask was born.  The process is seemingly rather simple.  Green (unroasted) coffee beans go into a whiskey barrel, are given some time to catch some of the magic therein, and then are roasted to coffee—voila!  Well it is rather simple, although I gather a lot of trial and error went into finding the right beans, the right aging times and the proper roast to truly express the product.  Also, I’ve been advised that the barrels used are smaller 10 gallon barrels with a heavy char that once held single malt from an undisclosed “independent distillery.”  I’m making a hunch that the barrels come from Sons of Liberty Spirits Co., also out of Kingston, RI, but don’t fault me for making such unfounded and circumstantial assumptions.  Anyways, sounds like a good idea—right? So what is the result of this experiment?

Before I even get to the brew, the first thing to note is the incredible aroma of these beans, which really opens up on the grinding.  One of the first notes to hit me is a rich dark chocolate note, followed by a smokiness similar to a full-bodied cigar.  From there the lighter flavors are able to escape with a distinct fruitiness—John had noted dried papaya, but I’m really catching mango and a touch of coconut.  The final smell I get is something reminiscent of coffee ice cream, maybe a second wave of milkier chocolate and a touch of vanilla.  I brewed the beans up in a French press, conveniently as recommended, and let settle about 5 minutes before pouring a cup for myself and one for my father.  Once brewed the nose remains very similar with the tropical fruit elements being dominant and a touch of caramel and vanilla.

Cooper's Cask

The flavors a rich, which a bit of molasses, a good deal of fruit and THERE it is! Booooze with toasty oak, vanilla and that strange in between note that is exactly like a shot of Jameson in a cup of coffee.  That milk chocolate note is there as well, and all these wash through in a medium (perhaps should have used another scoop) body and a long but very light finish with vanilla whiskey notes predominating, rather than any bitterness or smokier notes.

This, my friends, is not your average cup of joe.  On a blind tasting you’d find yourself wondering if this might be flavored, or perhaps just spiked—but you’d certainly find yourself wondering why the fuck anybody has every professed a love for Dunkin Donuts.  If you aren’t already wondering that every day.  While I do find myself wishing for a touch more bitterness—because that’s just who I am—I see a lot of potential to this, perhaps I’ll throw it in my espresso maker next.  And knowing that there’s a bourbon barrel and a rum barrel version I can see any number of delicious iterations coming of this.  With Cooper’s Cask Coffee, you may find yourself saying cheers first thing in the morning.

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Gift Pack Season, Give ’em the Bird and an Aging Kit

Happy Christmas, ya bastards.  I may as well be honest; I have a reputation as a bit of a scrooge.  That’s an under exaggeration, I’m an atheistic anti-capitalist with a tendency towards Seasonal Affective Disorder and a cynical heart. There is, however, one thing I embrace about this season:  gift packs.  Tis the season where buying a bottle of booze means getting a little bit more than a solid buzz and an excuse to hate mornings. Glasses and shakers, muddlers and nips—this is the glory of the season.  This year I feel I have found an extraordinary gift pack, and a gift that keeps on giving—the Wild Turkey cocktail aging set.  This year’s Wild Turkey gift pack, 101 mind you, includes a Wild Turkey embossed mason jar and a piece of charred spiral oak.  At the same price as a bottle of Wild Turkey.  Which also happened to be on sale for $20.  Ho, ho, ho-ly hell yes.

The oak aging concept is something that has been pretty hip for a while now—with mini-barrels on sale for aging white whiskey and bars serving barrel aged cocktail off the barrel, the movement has more legs than a Czech supermodel or a good scotch.  Though there is a chunk of hype involved, yes, but there is also a lot of benefit to aging a cocktail all wrapped in one lovely package, to mix and meld and smooth over the edges with a consistent dusting of smoky oaky goodness.  With this in mind, Wild Turkey have done isn’t anything new.  There are plenty of brands out there selling you decanters or plain old bottles with a spiral or honeycombed stick of charred oak.  The primary word there?  Sellinggggg.  You can buy a bottle with a charred oak stick as a “cocktail aging kit,” that’s $35.  You can buy a bottle of Wild Turkey for $20 and they give you that shit.  Merry Christma-hanna-let’s-get-ripped-akah.

Given my complete absence of holiday spirit it should come as no surprise that my interest in gift sets is purely selfish, and therefore it should be clear by now that I bought this set for myself.  I may be more for myself, because I’m not giving anybody gifts.  Ba-humbug. Anyways, in the world of infinite opportunities, known as mixology, I decided to use this lovely little perk of mine to make a twist on an old favorite—based on the materials I already had at hand.  I went with a twist on one of the oldest, some argue oldest, American cocktails: Le Sazerac.  The twist here is that instead of Rye I used the materials God and the New Hampshire State Liquor Commission gave me, Wild Turkey.  Now it is worth noting that this lil’ kit hold 500ml of fluid fire, which means scaling up your standard Sazerac Recipe significantly.  To make mine I briefly looked over a few interpretations of the standard recipe, thought about doing some math, then rapidly ignored it all and drank some of the other 250ml of Turkey.  I then put something together that may or may not resemble the following recipe.

Ye Big ol’ Sazerac

  • 2 oz Absinthe (La Muse Verte is what I had on hand)
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 10 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters (the traditional)
  • 10-15 dashes Embitterment Aromatic Bitters (the one upper)
  • 10-15 dashes Embitterment Orange Bitter (at this point, what the hell)
  • 1 Lemon’s rind, careful to avoid the pith
  • 1 oak spiral
  • About 400+ ml Wild Turkey to the top

Let settle 2 weeks or so.

Sazer-that!

Sazer-that!

There probably should have been more science to it, but I like to go by feel and I’m definitely feeling what I made there…I decided to serve this little monster over a single ice cube. The result? Hail Santa (Satan?)!  There is indeed a wonderful alchemy that occurs when all of these ingredients merge into one, spending weeks together in the bar top equivalent of Stalag Luft III with a little bit of oak to mellow it all together.  Perhaps I went a bit above and beyond the call of absinthe wash, as exemplified by the louche this concoction takes on when chilled, but the ingredients played off oh so well together, with the star of the show being the garnish.  That’s right, the garnish—the tinsel on the tree—the lovely lemon shined after 2 weeks giving off the beauty of her essential oils and soaking in the wonder of the Wild Turkey.  The bitters come through wonderfully as well, warm, sweet and mellow.  A damned good cocktail…though perhaps not perfect—but therein lies the beauty.

The genius that is the 2014 Wild Turkey gift pack is that it is the gift pack that keeps on giving.  Yes, perhaps you could make a cocktail to share—give, if you will—but that’s not where the pleasure stops.  This kit is reusable.  This time around I made a Sazerac.  Next time I could make a Manhattan, age it a bit longer, and maybe even impart a bit of that Sazerac.  I could then make an Old Fashioned that winds up with a hint of sweet vermouth note.  Even when that charred oak has exhausted all it has to give, you have a free mason jar emblazoned with the Wild Turkey emblem—the latest in whiskey chic.  So, though I have not gone on an all-out gift pack spree (yet,) I do declare the coolest (thus far) gift pack of the year is Wild Turkey 101’s do it yourself, drink it yourself, gift that keeps on giving, aging kit.