Coffee Cocktail – Jerry Thomas ‘The Bon Vivants Companion’

(Use a large bar-glass.) 

Take 1 tea-spoonful powdered white sugar, 

1 fresh egg. 

1 large wine-glass of port wine. 

1 pony of brandy. 

2 or 3 lumps of ice. 

Break the egg into the glass, put in the sugar, and lastly add port wine, brandy and ice. 

Shake up very thoroughly, and strain into a medium bar goblet. Grate a little nutmeg on top before serving. 

The name of this drink is a misnomer as coffee and bitters are not to be found among its ingredients, but it looks like coffee when it has been properly concocted, and hence probably its name.


Today I was forced out of baby hibernation to run a cocktail class at Goat for one of my friends and his work team from Sublime Skinz. It was a very fun group of people and the whole class felt a long way from work, so I didn’t feel like I was missing too much at home.

The class was on classic cocktails, a class that I always finish on this drink, although to be honest I try and use this drink in as many classes as possible.

I first came across this in Ted Haigh’s ‘Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails’ from a few years ago. This book was probably one of the more revolutionary books for me, in that it really made me look at think about classics more, and if there was one drink in the book that really kicked this off, it was the Coffee Cocktail. I remember on getting the book that I was going to work my way through making every drink inside, and on getting to this drink, I skipped it.

I’d used eggs in drinks before, namely for the fiz range, but the combination of this, Port and Brandy did not sound appealing at all, and it wasn’t until I’d tried the others that I decided to go back and give this a go.

There have been very few drinks that have surprised me over the years, this was the first, and is an excellent example of the sum of the parts being far greater than the parts themselves, this drink is a wow.

I’ve used this drink in classes for 5 years now, it works even better in an era of the espresso martini, I always make it the last drink of the class and introduce it ingredient by ingredient with the egg last and hold up the unshaken drink for all to see, gaze over the looks of disgust, do my best to reassure and then shake and serve the drink. In 5 years, I’ve had maybe 5 or 6 people be unimpressed with the finished article, and nobody dislike it, generally it inspires looks of wonder in drinkers which is partially why its an excellent drink to finish on.

It’s a drink I used to serve instead of dessert if I was having guests over for dinner, and a drink which is all about the freshly grated nutmeg.

Since picking up Ted’s book this has become one of my favourite cocktails of all time. For me it’s the mix of stranger ingredients, the weird name, the nutmeg and the wow moment when people try it, I cannot recommend this drink enough.

As an aside its interesting that the drink is a misnomer as it doesn’t have bitters in, reminds me of that first ever recipe for a cocktail, and how this as a description has stayed true at least until 1928, and yes, to me it has the same colour as a latte.