Words by Jane Ryan & Martin Hudak
The new book from the Maybe Sammy co-founder will change everything you thought you knew about coffee cocktails, and make you fall in love with them all over again.
It’s tempting to look at Martin Hudak’s new book Spiritual Coffee and say something like ‘move over Espresso Martini / Irish Coffee – there’s a whole world of coffee cocktails you haven’t even heard of’. It’s tempting because it’s true, Martin has unearthed the entire history of coffee in cocktails, digging out enchanting recipes from the 1700s all the way to complex modern recipes from bartenders in London, Hong Kong, Sydney and New York. There is, it transpires, so much more to this category than those two well-known drinks.
But the Espresso Martini and the Irish Coffee don’t have to go anywhere, instead they’re huge lynchpins in this lively journey of coffee cocktails, a story we at last have in whole, thanks to Martin lovingly piecing it together.
Spiritual Coffee is both an ode to this story and a revolutionary look at how coffee interplays with alcohol, from its vast range of aromas and flavours to the many ways it can be brewed to work in drinks. It’s instructional as it is engaging, and every bartender should have a copy if they’re serious about the ingredients in their drinks.
Martin’s new book will be out in November, but he’s currently raising funds for its printing and you can now help bring this exciting work to life HERE. To get you as excited as we are for the book, we asked Martin to write a brief piece on coffee cocktails.
Coffee and cocktails, for me, have always gone hand-in-hand. While training to be a bartender I also learnt the art of a barista and my first job was a café-cum-bar where I admonished people for putting sugar and milk in their coffee and then, come 5pm, served them Martinis and Old Fashioneds. Nowadays the two are intrinsically tied in all my work, from my ambassador role with Mr Black to the bars I have co-founded, Maybe Sammy and Sammy Jnr – here the café once again rolls into a bar but this time, seamlessly, a natural progression from morning to aperitivo.
I am not the first person to see how well coffee and alcohol meet – as you will discover in Spiritual Coffee, there are recipes for liqueurs dating back to the 1700s as the beautiful coffee rituals from the Middle East found their way to Europe. Indeed, Joe Sheridan, the man behind the Irish Coffee, was not the first to put alcohol, coffee and cream together – people in Vienna were doing this in the 1800s and those recipes are still around, those drinks still have names, even though many of us forgot them. Coffee and booze have long been bedfellows.
As cocktails had their renaissance, so too did coffee. If you’re reading this in Australia, you don’t need me to tell you about the change from how our parents consumed coffee to how we do. From burnt espressos we rediscovered the pleasure of slower extraction methods, better roasts, more diverse origins. All of this happened as cocktails fought off the shackles of the ‘80s and were served using better ice, fresh ingredients, more nuanced liqueurs and spirits made with care and locality in mind. But the two didn’t meet – didn’t bother to learn each other’s new and considered clothing.
You had bartenders, who would be fanatical about how their limes and lemons were cut, using instant coffee in their Espresso Martinis while down the road a local café was roasting their own beans sourced from a community of farmers in Brazil.
It may seem surprising that aside from the Espresso Martini and Irish Coffee, invented forty and eighty years ago respectively, for a long time we didn’t create more popular, widespread, modern coffee cocktails. But without good quality coffee circulating in our bars there was a standstill. Where coffee shines in cocktails is when it’s been considered as just as important as the other ingredients – if not more. How has it been roasted, what flavours is it bringing to the table, will it fight with your spirits or combine harmoniously?
When coffee is treated like a gin with its botanicals, a whisky with its cask finishes or a foraged, fresh ingredient to be fermented and studied, then we will have great coffee cocktails. Excitingly that time is now, the movement away from poorly-made coffee in cocktails is happening. Spiritual Coffee doesn’t just chart the history of how alcohol and coffee met, it also pushes into the future with recipes from friends around the world who are shaping the history to come of this category. We’re not stuck on the Espresso Martini – we’re finally moving forward.
There are numerous books touching on the topic of coffee, from its origins to its production to making a good cup at home, and again the same for cocktails, there are books covering where they come from, and which ones became famous during Prohibition or the ’80s. All those books are out there, and I would highly recommend buying some of them if you want to start your journey as a bartender or barista.
Yet, until now, there wasn’t a book touching on the history of both beverages and how they became one. It’s for that reason why I decided to write this book, to reveal some untold stories, to challenge the perspective of what we think is a coffee cocktail, and to share with you all with information that surprised even me. To make you reconsider this ingredient in your drinks, and ultimately to drink better coffee cocktails. To allow the transition from day to night to happen seamlessly in your glass.
All editorial and photography on this website is copyright protected
© Odd Firm of Sin 2024