With all the sunshine, it seems like a good brunching weekend, so let’s add a card to the brunch-drinking stack.
Several weeks ago, just as the weather turned warm, I finally found a solution to a conundrum that has long bothered me: how to serve coffee and cocktails next to each other? Of the brunch drinks I have mentioned so far in this column — and indeed any drinks I ever really serve during brunch at our house — none go very well next to a hot cup of coffee. Where the drinks are vibrant and cheerful, the coffee is earthy and dark, not to mention, you know… hot. They just sort of ruin each other.
Well, we all know I am not going to sacrifice any time spent sipping a good cocktail, no matter how much I enjoy a well-made cup of coffee (yeah — huge surprise — I’m into that, too.) So after puzzling over "The Coffee Conundrum" for some months, I remembered an episode of "Good Eats" that held a potential solution. For those of you not familiar, "Good Eats" was a late-90s/early-2000s, cable-access-gone-Food-Network cooking show hosted by the inimitable Alton Brown (who, touting his approachable home-cooking methods and ingenuity, was a significant inspiration during this column’s conception). The recipe in question was proffered as a way to use up day-old coffee, but it fits our needs nicely, especially as it can be prepared the night before without
detriment to its quality.
Here is Alton’s Coffee Granita:
2 Cups Strong Black Coffee
1/2 Cup Sugar
2 Tablespoons Coffee Liquer
1 Teaspoon Lemon or Orange Zest
Mix it up until the sugar dissolves, then pour it into a regular old baking pan — 9 x 13 works well, but anything that will spread it out and won’t spill or leak. Put it in the freezer. Every 30 minutes or so, take it out and break up the ice crust with a fork until you are “fluffing” ice crystals, usually after about 3.5-4 hours. You are going for a kind of rustic-looking sno-cone texture. I serve it in tea cups on saucers, but whatever works for you will be fine. Garnish with whipped cream if you like. I don’t.
If you have been of drinking age for more than 5 years, chances are good you have a bottle of khalua or some other coffee liquer gathering dust in the back of the cabinet. That will do. It adds some small amount of flavor, but mostly helps the ice form better. Anything you would splash into a cup of coffee will work: amaretto, Grand Marnier, Chartreuse, whatever. Obviously you will need to plan ahead a bit because while the active time of this recipe is maybe 5 minutes (plus making coffee), it will need significant time to freeze. One teaspoon of zest is about half a lemon for me.
Serve it up before the meal, after, during, whatever you want. This checks all my brunch boxes: easy to make, sense of occasion, common ingredients, doesn’t keep you away from the party for too long. It also goes great with cocktails — even gin. The sweetness knocks back the coffee-flavor jolt that so interrupts the flavors of your drink, and you are no longer switching from hot coffee to cold cocktail. Don’t worry — it’s still just as caffeinated as regular coffee.
Have a good weekend out there, kids. Don’t forget the sunscreen.