Photo credit: Jamie McRonald
I approached the 2015 UK Coffee In Good Spirits Championship wanting to really stretch myself and see what I could do. I started planning in May 2014, and put together a complicated, detailed and thoroughly researched plan to win the World Championship. Then it all went wrong.
I saw a cocktail in a bar in Byron Bay after the World Championship called “Autumn in Cognac” It featured VS Cognac, Amontillardo Sherry and Amaro amongst other things, and it was delicious!
It inspired me. Byron Bay in May was autumnal. Leaves were falling, there was a cool breeze in the air. I saw real potential in the cocktail, to add espresso and make a lovely fruity, warming, autumn cocktail.
September rolled around, and I went to Scotland with my family on holiday. Scotland in the Autumn is the most beautiful place in the world. the deep lochs shimmering and the mountains thrusting skyward, dappled with red, gold, green, brown and orange. On a good day the sunlight and clouds play games with you exposing ever more beautiful views that come and go in a heartbeat.
I wanted to capture something of that trip to offer up as a cocktail for competition, so I foraged for some autumn leaves, which I pressed, dried and preserved to use as a garnish.
Soon it was Christmas, and the announcement that the 2015 Championship was going to be held in May, at Caffe Culture. I experimented with trying to make a coffee version of Autumn in Cognac with mixed results, and I made Schwarzwaldkirschtortekaffee for the staff before the Christmas party.
Eventually, after what seemed like an eternity, I was able to register and start planning properly.
I wanted to use a Geisha, but make it deliver the proper value in the cup, which had been a big criticism from the World Championship. I thought about what makes a Geisha unique, and what to build on for the competition. Geishas are notably floral, and I wanted to make a really floral cocktail to show it off. I battle tested a number of gins, to see what paired best with the coffee. I found The Botanist – this is a brilliant Gin, distilled on Islay, and featuring 22 wild foraged botanicals. it is delicate, floral with a light citrus finish, much like the front end of a Geisha.
For the World Championship, you have to use Grand Marnier, so I always include it in my UK creations too. Something was missing though – what can you add to a £120 coffee to match value? Champagne!
Fortunately, the Champagne adds a great effervescence, reminiscent of coffee acidity, so all good.
I was still struggling a bit, because I could not pull the Geisha espresso how I wanted to, get good extraction and flavours and pull out the floral aromas I needed. Eventually, I gave up – Geisha is too good (and too expensive!) to just keep playing with. I also had access to coffees I knew would perform brilliantly. Union have been working with Kew Gardens on a project at the Yayu Wild Forest Biosphere in South-West Ethiopia with a number of co-operatives. The Yayu Wild Forest has coffee growing wild on the forest floor, which has been allowed to grow naturally. The co-operatives sympathetically manage the forest, with some light pruning and general maintenance, but without intensive farming. This preserves the biodiversity of the area, whilst providing a living for the community.
This project is really exciting; not only is the forest producing some stunning coffees, there could be cultivars in there that are resistant to disease, or offer greater yield, or who knows!
I chose coffee from the Geri co-operative (always a closet Spice Girls fan)
The way I pulled it as an espresso delivers to me, the classic South-West Ethiopian flavour profile – upfront florals, a sharp citrus spike, followed by a long, complex fruit finish. It fits in perfectly with the cocktail that I have built and when I put it all together, I am delighted with the result – except for one small problem. The citrus spike is muted and missing.
I was discussing this with one of our trainers, UKBC competitor, Josh Newman. He has a background in bartending and we came to a plan, whereby I would use a Limoncello rinse before the cocktail was built.
It was perfect! And garnished with edible flowers from Madodcks Farm Organics in Devon, it looked great too.
So, I had my designer drink, which accidentally didn’t draw on any of the inspiration from Australia at all. Now all I had to do was to make an Irish coffee with an Ethiopian coffee.
No sweat there then…
- A Brief History of Coffee Cocktails
- UK Coffee In Good Spirits Championship 2015 – Part 2