Perk Up With These Whisky-based Coffee Cocktails

Pairing whisky with coffee draws out rich flavors of vanilla, caramel, cinnamon, and baking spices.

Perk Up With These Whisky-based Coffee Cocktails

January 18, 2023 –––––– Brittany Risher Englert, , , ,

As Irish Coffee fans know, combining your favorite whiskey and java brings out the best in both drinks. “Whiskey and coffee often show similar overtones of vanilla, caramel, cinnamon, and baking spices. Their warm flavors are perfectly complementary,” says Franco Bilbaeno, head bartender at Niku Steakhouse in San Francisco. And now is the ideal time of year to take advantage of the internal heat stoked by a warm drink.

The recipes below take Irish Coffee (coffee, Irish whiskey, and a little sugar, topped with a layer of cream) to the next level yet are still easy to make at home. Warm a mug and get ready to wake up and smell the cocktails.

Wish_and_the_Thing1_(2).jpgWish and the Thing

Created by Richard Willis, beverage supervisor, King + Duke, Atlanta

Combining Punt e Mes vermouth with coffee-infused amaro creates a well-balanced drink that tastes almost like a dark chocolate-covered espresso bean, Willis says.


  • 1 oz. Laws Whiskey House Bonded San Luis Valley rye (or other bonded rye)
  • 1/2 oz. espresso-infused Cynar 70 (recipe below)
  • 1/2 oz. Punt e Mes vermouth
  • 4 oz. brewed hot coffee
  • Fresh whipped cream, Angostura bitters, and dried blood orange wheel for garnish

Warm a cocktail mug. Add whiskey, Cynar, and Punt e Mes. Pour in hot coffee and stir to combine. Top with whipped cream. Use an atomizer to spray Angostura bitters on top and garnish with orange wheel.

Espresso-Infused Cynar 70

  • 1 liter Cynar 70
  • 1 cup roasted coffee beans

Combine ingredients in a sealable container. Let steep for 3 days. Strain beans out and pour liquid back into the Cynar bottle. Will keep indefinitely.

Breakfast_Cocktail_(2)-0002.JPGBreakfast Cocktail

Created by Franco Bilbaeno, head bartender, Niku Steakhouse, San Francisco

“This drink reminds me of fresh off the griddle maple pancakes enjoyed on the first day of a long weekend,” Bilbaeno says. “It makes any occasion cozy.”


  • 2 oz. brown-butter bourbon (recipe below)
  • 1/4 oz. falernum
  • 1/4 oz. maple syrup
  • 3 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 2 dashes saline solution
  • 2-3 oz. hot brewed coffee
  • Orange twist for garnish

Combine all ingredients except coffee in a mixing glass and stir to incorporate, about 10 seconds. Pour into a coffee mug and top with coffee. Garnish with orange twist.

Brown Butter Bourbon

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 bottle (750 ml) bourbon of choice

Add butter to a cold saucepot and turn heat to medium-high. Cook down until the froth subsides and butter browns. (This can easily burn.) When aroma is nutty and toasted, remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Pour bourbon into a container and add room-temp butter. Seal container with a lid and put in the freezer overnight. In the morning, strain mixture through a coffee filter and return to original bottle. Keep refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.

The_Lord_Byron_(2).jpegLord Byron

Created by Mike Rice, beverage director, Alexandria Restaurant Partners, Alexandria, Virginia

“This drink is a warm hug on a cool night,” Rice says. “It’s a Black Manhattan with a touch of sweetness from the cherry syrup.”


  • 2 oz. Makers Mark (or other wheated bourbon)
  • 1 oz. Amaro Averna
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1/2 oz. dark cherry juice
  • 2 Tbsp. ground coffee
  • 4 oz. hot water
  • Orange peel and 3 espresso beans for garnish

Place all ingredients except ground coffee and water in a footed glass coffee mug. Place a pour-over coffee maker basket on top of the glass and add ground coffee. Pour hot water over the coffee, let drip through, and stir. Garnish with orange peel and espresso beans.

Dirty_Harbinger_Cocktail_(2).JPGDirty Harbinger

Created by Anthony Partridge, lead bartender, The Laundry Room, Las Vegas

This silky drink finishes with notes of spiced ginger and toffee.


  • 2 oz. Angel’s Envy rye (or other finished rye)
  • 1/4 oz. maple syrup
  • 1/4 oz. dark creme de cacao
  • 1/4 oz. ginger liqueur
  • 1 dash habanero bitters
  • 1 shot espresso
  • Steamed milk or cream and cocoa powder for garnish

Heat water and pour into an Irish Coffee mug to warm. Meanwhile, combine all ingredients except espresso in a mixing glass and stir for 15-20 seconds. Pour water out of mug and pour cocktail ingredients in. Add espresso shot and top with steamed milk or cream as desired. Sprinkle with cocoa powder.