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Coffee cocktails

Words by Simon Difford

In 1947, an American journalist, Stanton Delaphane visited the bar at Ireland's Shannon Airport where the bartender made him an Irish Coffee. Stan was so impressed that on returning home he passed the recipe onto the bartender at his local bar, the Buena Vista Café in San Francisco. So the popularity of the best-known coffee cocktail or 'liqueur coffee' was assured. But what about the others...

No restaurant dinning experience or dinner party is complete without freshly brewed coffee followed by a glass of liqueur or spirit. At its simplest coffee cocktails combine these two drinks. In its more complex form coffee cocktails combine coffee's bitterness and a liqueur's sweetness to create a balanced drink. In the same way that the liqueur counteracts the bitterness of the coffee, the coffee's stimulant properties counteract the effects of the alcohol.

12 best coffee cocktails

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Affogato Cocktail

With: Grappa, coffee liqueur, dark crème de cacao, espresso coffee and vanilla ice-cream.
We say: An indulgent cocktail based on the Italian dessert of the same name.
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Bonaparte Cocktail

With: Soda water, espresso coffee and Mandarin Napoleon liqueur.
We say: Zesty orange coffee served in a tall refreshing cocktail.
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Coffee Coolatta

With: Bourbon, coffee liqueur, lemon juice, pineapple juice and cold brew coffee.
We say: Bourbon laced coffee with a white tea and coconut foam.
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Espresso Martini

With: Vodka, espresso coffee, coffee liqueur and sugar syrup.
We say: Perhaps the best and most popular cocktail of the modern era. So much so that it has inspired many of the other cocktails on this page.
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Flying Frenchman

With: Absinthe, coffee liqueur and espresso coffee.
We say: A surprisingly tasty three equal parts Absinthe Espresso Martini.
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Grappa Espresso Martini

With: Aged grappa, coffee liqueur, espresso coffee and sugar syrup.
We say: Italians, and those of us in the know, have a splash of grappa with their morning espresso - the flavours combine brilliantly. The same can be said for this grappa based riff on the contemporary classic.
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With: Vodka, crème de noisette, coffee liqueur, espresso coffee, cream and milk.
We say: Creamy and caffeine laced - think flat white.
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Irish Coffee

With: Irish whiskey, demerara sugar syrup, filter coffee and cream.
We say: Made well this is one of the very best cocktails and like so many seemingly simple cocktails, it's easy to get wrong.
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Irish Coffee Cocktail

With: Irish whiskey, espresso coffee, demerara sugar syrup and single cream.
We say: Like the drink above, only served short and chilled in a Martini glass.
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Jalisco Espresso

With: Reposado tequila, espresso coffee and coffee liqueur.
We say: A tequila Espresso Martini.
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Mocha Martini

With: Bourbon, espresso coffee, Irish cream liqueur, brown crème de cacao and cream.
We say: A bourbon laced chocolate flavoured iced flat white.
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With: Light rum, Fernet Branca, chocolate cream liqueur, espresso coffee and caster sugar.
We say: A Legacy winning minty mocha rum espresso.