SEATTLE SHOULD, in theory, be crazy about coffee liqueur. Combining caffeine and alcohol is the ultimate legal speedball, an up-and-down roller-coaster ride of acceptable vices (though the concept often manifests as vomitous chimeras like Red Bull and vodka) that fits in perfectly with Seattle’s “hurry up and relax” attitude.
And, alcoholic forms of coffee should hold particular appeal to Seattleites, for whom dark-roast drip can be used to replace blood plasma. So why is coffee liqueur not the official state libation? Why do we turn our noses up at it as outdated and kitschy, relegating it to dessert cocktails and bonbon flavoring?
Part of the problem is that the most well-known coffee liqueurs are, of course, Kahlúa and Tia Maria, mass-produced bar staples with a bit of a “tiki” reputation that generally form the basis of sticky-sweet drinks like the White Russian.
During a brief period in my life when I was both experimenting with laziness as a lifestyle choice and just learning how to drink (i.e. around the age of 21), I was really into White Russians, which have long been synonymous with The Dude in the movie “The Big Lebowski,” thereby adding to coffee liqueur’s vaguely seedy image.
White Russians, which are made with cream, Kahlúa and vodka, can be nauseating (I had a stronger stomach when I was 21), because the drink is basically the alcoholic equivalent of a Starbucks Frappuccino, and not something that any serious, rain-drenched, lunchtime-jogging Puget Sounder would drink after 5 p.m.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. With a little (very little, I promise) elbow grease, you can make your own coffee liqueur, and your favorite local third-wave roasts (Slate! Caffe Umbria! Victrola!) can become the basis of your cocktails.