Cocktails Inspired by Coffee

by Mallory Leicht 

Coffee is a creative catalyst. We watch it unfold in our shops in the quiet website developer, the grad student, or the roaring work meeting. We hear about it from regulars, with a to-go coffee in hand, as they head out to impact their communities. We feel it in ourselves, as we excitedly dial in a new coffee, and work to find it’s best brew method. Coffee is our magic, our conduit, our connecting force. It’s always in motion and changing, which is great, because we are too. Our curious and adventurous palates are just the first step in our relentless pursuit of showcasing seasonal coffee offerings and sharing the depth of their beauty with others while we have them.

As women who work in coffee, we’re obsessed with deconstructing flavor in every cup. Adjusting variables along the supply chain that positively impact that flavor, the planet, and each other while learning how makers and producers in other industries do the same. That said, our affection for flavor is rarely limited to the coffees we love, grow, source, import, roast, brew, share. We love tasting. If a flavor experience sounds strange and interesting, our hands are usually up. If it sounds familiar and comforting, still up.

I caught up with a few wonderful coffee professionals and asked them to tell me about a coffee they’re currently crushing on. Together we tapped into this idea of seasonal coffee as a creative catalyst and applied it to another realm of flavor we love: cocktails. These aren’t coffee cocktails, but cocktails inspired by coffees. Think day-to-night fashion and putting an evening spin on delicious daily wears. The cocktails are built around the flavor profiles that stand out in each of these coffees. It’s not intentional that they’re all pink—although as a longtime fan of Molly Ringwald and Pretty in Pink I’m not too upset about it—they’re packed with coloring pops of blueberry, Aperol, blackberry, and so on, but we’ll get to that. First, glasses (and mugs) up to being flavor-obsessed coffee women, sharing that with others, and using coffee as a creative catalyst in the work that we do (all day, every day).

The Coffeewoman: Chelsea Thoumsin


Photo Credit: Liz Chai

Chelsea Thoumsin is a coffee-driven wholesale customer-support-team member for Counter Culture Coffee. She may be a World Barista Championship Certified Sensory judge—and have visited the coffee farms Nicaragua, Mexico, Panama, and Honduras—but what she’s proudest of so far is prying the K-cup machine off of her mother’s counter and replacing it with a manual-brewing set-up. When she’s not planning her next trip to origin or teaching all things coffee, she can be found at her abode in Philadelphia, keeping honeybees and studying various insects (check out her side project, @PollinatorProject), volunteering with her therapy cattle dog, and writing.

Chelsea’s Coffee: Counter Culture Coffee Idido
Roaster: Counter Culture Coffee – Durham, NC
Region: Sidama, Ethiopia – Idido
Processed: Washed
Tastes Like: floral aromatics, silky smooth body, fresh squeezed lemonade brightness, light black tea finish

Idido Reconsidered

Intricate layers of balanced bitterness with citrus brightness, notes of concentrated black tea, caramel, rhubarb and orange, and a round, coating mouthfeel.

Fernet Branca rinse
1 ounce bourbon whiskey
1 ounce Apparel
3/4 ounce lemon juice
1/2 ounce black tea simple*
3 dashes orange bitters
grapefruit peel, garnish

For this stirred drink, chill a mixing glass (or tin) and a serving glass until ready to serve. Rinse your serving glass with about a 1/4 ounce of Fernet Branca. Swirl it about the glass until it’s fully coated then discard (or enjoy!) any excess. Next, fill your mixing glass at least over half way with ice, then pour the bourbon, Aperol, lemon juice, and black tea simple over the ice. Use a bar spoon to stir the drink, at least a minute, until the ice properly dilutes the drink and cools it down. Strain the drink into your serving glass and top with fresh ice and orange bitters. Rub the grapefruit peel around the rim of the glass, then place it in the drink for garnish.

*Black Tea Simple Syrup
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup unrefined sugar
10 grams loose leaf black tea
Heat water and sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat just until the sugar fully dissolves. Remove from heat, add in loose leaf tea and steep for 30 minutes. Strain into a clean glass jar and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

The Coffeewoman: Bethany Hargrove

IMG_8274Bethany Hargrove makes coffee and, unless a lot of people are telling her lies, doesn’t suck at it. You can find her in Portland, OR, where she divides her time between looking for cool stuff in the forest and asking people questions over the coffee bar at Barista.

Bethany’s Coffee: Camber Coffee Honduras Migdoneo Enamorado
Roaster: Camber Coffee – Bellingham, WA
Region: Honduras – Migdoneo Enamorado
Processed: Washed
Tastes Like: wildflower honey, blackberry, lemon curd

Camber Gin Sour  

Sultry, quiet tones of blackberry, pops of floral honey, herbaceous complexity, and creaminess and brightness reminiscent of lemon meringue.

3 blackberries
1 1/2 ounces gin (London dry style)
1 ounce wildflower honey syrup*
1 ounce lemon juice
1 egg white
1 dash Angostura bitters
blackberry and lemon peel, garnish

Add blackberries, gin, honey syrup, lemon juice, and eggwhite to a Boston shaker and shake for 20 seconds, to crush the lightly blackberries and emulsify the egg white. Add a scoop of ice and shake an additional 30 seconds. Strain into a serving glass over fresh ice and garnish with a dash of Angostura bitters, a blackberry and lemon peel.

*Wildflower Honey Syrup
1/2 cup wildflower honey
1/2 cup water
Heat honey and water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk until the honey melts and is fully integrated into a syrup. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Transfer to a clean glass jar and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

The Coffeewoman: Björg Brend Laird


Björg Brend Laird is the host and producer of Coffee Awesome, a podcast available on iTunes dedicated to coffee people, the product, agronomy, geography, history, café business, brewing, science, and taste. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism, interning with DR, Denmark’s Radio, for a year and a half before she left the radio world and got into coffee. She served as the co-organizer of the Nordic Barista Cup from 2005 until 2013, a collaborative coffee workshop and international competition dedicated to creating a forum where attendees can meet, exchange ideas, and learn together. Björg relocated to San Francisco Bay Area in 2013 and co-founded Supersonic Coffee. As VP and Project Manager at Supersonic, her job is to support her Supersonic colleagues to be awesome at what they do, including anything from long-term planning and day-to-day organizing, writing/editing, text, internal communication and company mind set.

Björg’s Coffee: Supersonic Coffee Guji Natural
Roaster: Supersonic Coffee – Oakland, CA
Region: Sidama, Ethiopia – Guji
Processed: Natural
Tastes Like: blueberry waffle, mango, dried plum, prune sweetness

Guji After Hours


Soft smokiness with ripe and juicy mango and blueberry, earthy tanginess and sweetness, and intriguing effervescence.

1 ounce mezcal
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
3/4 ounce mango maple shrub*
1/2 ounce blueberry syrup**
1 ounce white ale or heffeweisen
3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
blueberry, for garnish

Add mezcal, sweet vermouth, mango maple shrub, blueberry syrup, beer, Peychaud’s bitters, and a scoop of ice to a Boston shaker. Shake vigorously for at least 30 seconds. Serve in a chilled coupe glass and garnish with a fresh blueberry.

*Mango Maple Shrub
1 cup fresh diced mango
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup unrefined sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
Combine mango, vinegar, sugar, and maple syrup in a mixing bowl. Stir until well combined then transfer to a clean glass jar. Seal the jar and let the shrub steep for at least 3 days. Press the shrub through a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth. Repeat as needed to ensure all solids are discarded. Pour the shrub through a funnel into a clean glass jar or bottle. Seal the container and shake vigorously. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

**Blueberry Syrup
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup unrefined sugar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon lime zest (careful not to include any white pith)
Combine blueberries, sugar, water and lime zest in a small saucepan. Bring ingredients to a boil over medium-high heat and simmer for 20 minutes while the blueberries burst open and the liquid reduces. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Strain the syrup into a clean glass jar and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.


About The Author 

Mallory Leicht is the founder of Chase the Flavors, a food & beverage blog and event planning brand celebrating seasonal recipes and resourceful cooking. Mallory serves on the Competitions Committee for SCAA and as a USBC Head Judge and spoke at the inaugural event for The Coffeewoman on a panel discussion about coffee competition. She’s about to relocate from the mighty Midwest to the Bay Area to work with Blue Bottle Coffee as a Retail Trainer and is equally excited about the forthcoming road trip across America. You can find her trying to DIY her way through a creative obsession, taking photos of her food, your food, and a complete stranger’s food, and talking your ear off about how awesome libraries are.

2 thoughts on “Cocktails Inspired by Coffee

  1. the piece on coffee inspired cocktails is amazing…. never thought I’d find THIS in a coffee blog!!! I’ll be sharing this with a couple friends who are deeply into appreciating good coffee, and have a wild sense of what “works” when it comes to mixology. They have surprised me many times.
    Some of these make me want to play with cocktails that actually include coffee…. as one of the flavour components. If I come up with anything I’ll share…..

    Was glad to learn of Camber Coffee in Bellingham, too. I’ll be headed that way in the next few weeks to connect with friends recently moved there. They love my coffee, and have been looking for good local in town. We have some exploring to do.


    • Thanks for reading! Mallory did a great job with this piece. “cocktails” with coffee is a pretty popular thing in the coffee industry. Specifically when it comes to Barista Competitions where the barista makes a signature drink. We see a lot of cocktail inspiration in those drinks. There is also the Coffee in Good Spirits Competition you can look into if you are looking for coffee cocktails!


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