Ask your favorite bartender for a cocktail with coffee liqueur and you’ll be hearing about pretty much the same few drinks, dolled up with slightly different ingredients, and maybe served in a different sort of glass. Yawn.
What do I mean? Let me give you an example. The Black Russian is coffee liqueur and vodka over ice. The White Russian is nothing more than a Black Russian with the addition of cream. There’s the Mind Eraser, a Black Russian with soda water, consumed from a pint glass with a giant straw. The Espresso Martini is a Black Russian with a shot of espresso. And so it goes.
In short, there aren’t many decent options for cocktails made with coffee liqueur—unless you know where to look. I looked to Jon Santer, a bartender’s bartender. He’s the owner of Prizefighter in Emeryville, California, the former manager at Bourbon and Branch in San Francisco, and at one time the West Coast brand ambassador for Hendrick’s Gin. The man has pretty much done it all, to the point if you told me he’d wrestled a bear in a Russian prison, I’d probably buy it.
But less believable is the idea that the man once created a delicious—and very different—cocktail that contains coffee liqueur. But there it is, the Revolver. Arguably one of the better-known modern classic cocktails out there today, the Revolver takes fiery, spicy bourbon and tames it with hot, sweet coffee liqueur and ties the whole thing together with orange bitters and a smoky flamed orange peel. So simple, so good.
Before you run out and make this, a quick note about flamed orange peels, because they can be a bit tricky to pull off. I like to start with a nice, thick, oval-shaped piece of the orange peel, about twice the size of my thumb. Holding the peel by the long end in the thumb and forefingers, with the outer skin facing the surface of the drink, I hold a lighter or lit match between the peel and the drink. With one squeeze, the oils from the peel should spritz through the flame onto the surface of the drink and put on a little fireworks show. I highly recommend dimming the lights.
2 oz. bourbon
½ oz. coffee liqueur
2 dashes orange bitters
Stir ingredients with ice and strain into a small chilled coupe glass. Garnish with a flamed orange peel.
Jeffrey Morgenthaler is the bar manager at Pépé le Moko and Clyde Common, the acclaimed gastropub at the Ace Hotel in Portland, Oregon. He is also author of The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique.